Jane Marin and her husband Livio’s home on their farm at Alloway was built in 1994 and Jane had big dreams of a forest garden.
However, when she went to see the block after it had been prepared for building she was in for an even bigger shock.
“Every single tree was gone, it was like a desert,” she said.
“The first thing I did when the house was built, with a three-year-old and a tiny baby in tow, was to map out the garden.
“The soil was barren wallum soil with no nutrients at all and a fine white bull dust that still finds its way onto every surface in our house. It wouldn’t grow anything.
“I quickly learned also that farmers don’t like gardening, so anything that I wanted done in my garden, had to be done by my own hand.
“I created garden beds by laying down layers of newspaper (or anything I could find) and covering them with bales of hay or cane trash and planting trees where the ground was soft enough for me to dig and gradually a few of the original trees began to reshoot.”
Jane said these included eucalypts, grevilleas, bottle brushes and banksias and she bought more of the same to fill in gaps.
“As the children grew up, my garden was abandoned for many years, kept barely tidy by mowing and spraying weeds,” she said.
“But when they both left home for university and work, I realised that I now had time to get back in my garden.
“I noticed what plants worked in our soil, those that had survived with no attention for a good 15 years, noted that there was now a thick layer of organic matter around the trees that I could work with and abandoned my flower gardens for hardy bromeliads, spider lilies and other hardy plants.
“My vegetable garden has taken a full 25 years to finally be productive. Now I have herbs, lettuce and tomatoes growing most of the time.
“We have a small area enclosed for Hector the dog, which is also home to a tight wire that's a remnant from Levana’s circus days, when she studied tight wire and hula hoops at the National Institute of Circus Arts after finishing school.
“My son Demetre built the practice wire for her as a high school project at St Luke's. It’s been abandoned for many years now but is a great talking point.”
As well as the family enjoying the garden, it is the perfect backdrop for artist Jane’s workshops at Wattle Cottage on the property.
“I love my garden. It is an oasis and my happy place. It’s where I go to recover, rejuvenate and re-energise,” she said.
- Last week's garden feature: Hard work pays off at In the Grove