This week we take a walk around Sylvia and Wolfie Oetjen’s beautiful property on Childers Road, which is like stepping into a tropical resort.
When Sylvia and Wolfie Oetjen moved onto their “bush block” on Childers Road at Elliott in 1994 they wanted their gardens to be tropical and eclectic, but knew there was a lot of work ahead of them.
“We had to clear around five acres of the 36-acre block to build our home, establish gardens, get a vegetable patch going and so on,” Sylvia said.
“Our main problem as far as the gardens went, was that this block of land is essentially all clay; great nutrients if broken down, hard as a rock if not.
“The answer? Tonnes and tonnes of mulch, all bucketed on with our own fair hands.
“I found I had a green thumb with newly discovered bromeliads and cordylines, so those plants formed the initial scattered plantings, soon being bulked out with ixora, crotons, azaleas, succulents, and things I don’t even know the names of.
“All in all it’s snowballed out to one and a half acres of ornamental gardens (just shoot me now) a heap of edibles, and a 40 x 25 metre shade house.”
Sylvia started work on the garden while her husband and a “chippy” were working on the inside of the building.
“I guess you could say it took around five years for the outside areas to look well and truly established and growing well,” she said.
“A respect for Feng Shui has always been with me, in designing the house and in designing the garden bed areas.
“The gardens have certainly developed over the years, with me finding out just what I could grow well and what I couldn’t.
“Wolfie had the practical expertise to install the pipework and equipment for automatic watering, otherwise we wouldn’t have had a hope of doing it all.
“After 26 years and having spread mega-tonnes of mulch, it is now so easy to grow virtually anything we want to grow.
“It’s always a pleasure just to sit and look, or to wander around and discover another one of the plants which has bloomed since we last looked at that particular part of the gardens.
As with many gardens around the region, Sylvia and Wolfie have found worms to be a great help.
“We noticed a big difference in areas which had naturally-occurring worms in the soil, so Wolfie proceeded to make up a super-sized worm farm,” she said.
“We often take a handful of worms to various parts and we use the “worm juice” on our edibles … vegetable garden, herb garden and fruit trees.”
Whether it’s working in the tropical garden, enjoying lunch on the deck every day surrounded by nature or feeding the rainbow lorikeets that come for their own food every day, Sylvia and Wolfie have certainly achieved their vision of living in a “tropical resort”.
- Last week’s garden: A place that touches the soul