GARDEN THAT GREW FROM AN ELEPHANT’S EAR

Sydney, Australia

 

Colocasia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to south-eastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent. They are herbaceous perennial plants with a large corm on or just below the ground surface. The leaves are large to very large, 20-150 cm long. The elephant’s ear plant gets its name from the leaves which are shaped like a large ear or shield. The plant reproduces mostly by means of rhizomes (tubers, corms).

Quote from a brochure produced for Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk.                              

CREATED WITH LOVE

Below here is a simple rock pool built many years ago by local residents from  boulders found along the water’s edge. One day in 1959 as Lex Graham enjoyed his daily swim after a jog in the Reserve, an elephant’s ear bulb floated by. He fished it from the water and planted it between the roots of a nearby coral tree. To his surprise, it grew. He had recently met Ruby and together they watched the growing plant. They began to add other plants and cuttings to that first one. And so began this amazing garden which now covers more than a hectare. The gardens have been built from so little, as an enormous labour of love. The steep slopes had been used as a tip for decades. Thickets of privet and Lantana, and masses of vines grew over the rubbish. Gradually Lex and Ruby cleared the weeds to discover all manner of junk – mattresses, refrigerators, hundreds of bricks, thousands of bottles, whalebone corsets and a kitchen sink. The rubbish was reburied and used as a base for plants and paths. Logs and rocks were positioned to form beds along the cliff and the weeds broken up and used as mulch or fill.                                                                                                                 They planted whatever they could find that might grow happily and hold the soil. The tree ferns, less than 15cm high, came from crevices in the rocks along the foreshore. Clivias and agapanthus discarded by local gardeners were very effective in clumping and building the soil. Without these plants the erosion caused by torrents of storm water, which still flushes through the garden, would be greater than it is. Friends gave cuttings from their gardens. Some plants were donated for special reasons. Others had simply outgrown their pots. The soil on the steep slopes was thin and poor, so Lex collected barrow-loads of leaves from the pathways for mulch. Water was carried down in containers and neighbours, above the garden, assisted with their hoses. Council installed taps in 1978 and Lex then set up a permanent network of hoses and sprinklers. To Lex and Ruby the garden became a special place with each path and corner given a name, favourite spots to sit and watch the moon rising over the water, delightful bird life and a feeling of great peace. Others say they find the same peaceful feeling in the garden. For ten years Lex and Ruby spent the weekends in the garden. In 1969, when Lex retired, they spent weekdays in the garden instead. Lex died in 1988 but Ruby continued to work several days a week in the garden they created together. Ruby passed away in February 2009. The descendants of the first elephant’s ear bulb still thrive in their garden.”

Volunteers and North Sydney Council have continued maintaining the space since Ruby’s death in 2009.

I visited this garden with a friend earlier this year and revelled in the peaceful beauty of this place. It is a true ‘secret’ garden (about 500m from Cremorne Point), easily reached by bus or ferry from Sydney’s CBD. To explore the area fully as we did, alight at Cremorne Point Ferry Wharf and follow the foreshore walk for a full-on panorama of the Harbour Bridge and city skyline. Cremorne Reserve stretches around the entire shoreline of Cremorne Point in a mix of native bushland and formal gardens which provide exceptional public access to the harbour shores. It is a special Reserve in a spectacular environment. The full walk takes one on a loop right around the Point with grand houses and great harbour views which we enjoyed. A side walk leads to Robertson’s Point Lookout with some old steps down to the Lighthouse. We treated ourselves to a delightful lunch at Mosman Bay Marina before boarding the Ferry to return to Circular Quay.

 

 

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