Wollongong locals’ fruitful vision for community verge gardens
Schoolteacher and avid gardener, Kathryn Morgan, describes verge gardens as a “gift to the street”.
Ms Morgan is one of 12 Wollongong residents who received a one-off $250 voucher from Wollongong Council to help towards the planting of a low-cost demonstration verge garden.
Last year, we called for community members to apply to the Connecting Neighbours Grants – Verge Garden Pilot program, a trial initiative that encouraged residents to make use of the valuable Council-owned land between their houses and the street.
Read more in our media release: ‘Planting the seeds for a greener Wollongong’.
“Talking to strangers is something I love about gardening on the verge. I like the term "gift to the street" for front gardens. I think it perfectly describes what a verge garden does. It’s a talking point to connect neighbours and anyone walking or working nearby,” Ms Morgan said.
Ms Morgan has already planted part of her garden on the verge outside her property. With help from Council staff, Ms Morgan has planted a free street tree on her verge. Now, she plans to use her voucher to expand her verge gardens which are enjoyed by neighbours and passers-by of all ages.
“I know lots of people are interested and certainly the kids next door are interested in my garden. One of my neighbours regularly pops her head over the fence and asks for mint or goes down and takes herbs from my verge garden. Sometimes I put a big bucket out the front with herbs and people will take from it.”
Jess Whittaker, another successful Connecting Neighbours Grants applicant, says that she plans to plant a native verge garden outside the Dapto Ambulance Station where she works.
“I already have a verge garden at home so thought a garden at Dapto [Ambulance] Station would be a way to help the roll out of the verge planting guide. We have a bus stop in front of the station… so it’s a good spot for the community to see what Wollongong Council is encouraging us to plant using the new guide,” Ms Whittaker said.
“We are aiming to achieve a beautiful, low maintenance, drought tolerant garden using a variety of local native grasses and ground covers. I love the contrast in colours and shapes when native grasses are planted together, and they're very easy to look after.”
“We also have a couple of street trees which will be added to the verge by Council’s Urban Greening team. It was great timing that the Dapto roll out for street trees is happening next month.”
The Dapto Street Trees project is an ongoing community greening initiative that aims to increase the tree canopy in public spaces around the Dapto suburb.
Read more in our media release: ‘Dapto sets new tree record for Council’s Street Tree program’.
Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM encouraged community members to keep an eye out for the different verge gardens appearing around the city.
“Verge gardens are a great way to invite positive connections and create organic opportunities to meet and interact with your neighbours,” Cr Bradbery said.
“As part of Our Wollongong Strategy, our Verge Garden Guidelines are one way we’re working with our community to value and protect the environment. Caring for a verge garden allows people to bring greenery and plant life to our homes that can be enjoyed by the whole community.”
Ms Morgan is already planning to visit the Wollongong Botanic Garden plant sales to purchase more plants for her verge.
“Most of my purchases come from the Wollongong Greenplan plant sales. I’m usually there in line at 7.20am,” Ms Morgan said.
“My existing garden is so flower centric so my next garden will be a native garden for my own kids and their friends who frequently use the footpath. I’m fascinated to learn about Indigenous land care and agriculture and so would like to include lots of traditional food and medicinal plants mixed with my favourite plant – Poa Labillardieri [commonly known as tussock-grass].”