By Eleanor Wilson
Off the beaten track of the Casey Foothills is a perennial paradise, where homeowner Barbara Muma spends her days among shades of forest green, burgundy and sage.
But it’s the vivid fuchsia bushes, purple flax lilies and radiant orange Californian poppies that bring the two-acre garden to life.
There’s a discreet reason for the bursts of yellow and blue that are peppered throughout Barbara’s Narre Warren North garden – her partner David.
“David is colourblind, so by incorporating bits of yellow and blue into the garden, he can see those flowers and he can enjoy them,” Barbara said.
While Barbara’s act of love for her partner was a considered decision, she said there was “no great plan that went on” when she began designing the garden over 30 years ago.
“It was certainly a gradual process,” she chuckled.
Barbara will swing open the gates to her Narre Warren North property at 149 A’Beckett Road on 3 and 4 December, as part of an Open Gardens Victoria viewing.
She hopes the open garden will be a chance for families to revel in her most prized possession, which gazes at uninterrupted views towards Dandenong, stretching out to Port Phillip Bay.
“If it’s a nice day like this, I would hope that people bring some food of their own if they want to sit down and have a picnic of their own on the grass,” Barbara said.
“That’s what I hope to achieve. People having a nice time.”
Growing up on the Kooweerup swamp, Barbara said her love for gardening came from her mother’s example.
“I can’t say that I was very good at weeding as a child, but I took an interest in the plants and I enjoyed them and appreciated them,” she said.
“And then, when I was able, I started to make little gardens in the different places that we moved to.
“So when I came here and saw this place I thought hmm, this has got a potential for a good garden here.”
That was 1990. Barbara, her then-husband and three children had recently moved back home after 20 years living in Canada.
Back then, the owners of the Narre Warren North property had a driveway that traversed the front entrance to the house, now occupied by a lush green lawn.
“There were sort of random garden beds stuck in the middle of the lawn and it was very basic,” she said.
“I immediately began the process of removal and replacement of existing trees and garden beds. Rose and perennial beds were laid out and developed.”
She spends about an hour each day in the garden – weeding, pruning, cutting back shrubs, dividing perennials ahead of the winter season.
The garden’s acre-long dam – arguably the crowning glory of the property, has 50 years of its own history.
It was dredged and built with the overburden from the former quarry site which was located to the east of the property and later irrigated crops to provide stock water to the valley below.
Today, clusters of flowering water lilies line its outer edges, while Australian coots, frogs and resident snake-necked turtles enjoy its cool waters.
Below the lake is the native section of the garden, where Melaleuca ‘Green Globe’, Agonis flexuosa ‘Nana’ and striking Myrtaceae ‘Bottlebrush’ flourish – an ode to the Indigenous beginnings of the land on Bunurong Country.
Barbara’s fondness for nature is clear as she sits on a stool on her front porch, presenting photos of a nest of grey fantails which have made their home amongst a wall of climbing hydrangeas at the property’s rear.
“I remember going to music lessons as a kid and I absolutely loved it on a nice sunny day like today, getting out of school early, not because I was going to piano lessons but because I could have a look at everything that was going on in the trees and the birds and all that. I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Blue wrens, scrub wrens, grey fantails, eastern spinebills, new holland honeyeaters, red browed finches, willie wagtails, rainbow lorikeets, Barbara’s knowledge of the birdlife that inhabit the garden could rival the most experienced bird watcher.
It’s good to have a focus, she says.
“It takes your mind off all the general concerns of the day. It’s amazingly therapeutic actually,” she reasons.
“And there’s nothing like a bit of hard work to make you sleep at night.”
Entry to Barbara’s garden will cost $10 per person, with children’s entry free. There is a toilet located at the back of the house, past the vegetable garden and crabapple archways.
The proceeds from the garden viewing will be split between Open Gardens Victoria and the Narre Warren Scout Group, an organisation close to Barbara’s heart.
A scout group leader for three years in Vancouver, Barbara said she hopes the event can give the local Scout group an added funding boost.
“One of the reasons I chose the scout group is because they don’t get funding from the government,” she said.
“Both David and I were involved with them and it’s great for kids. It’s absolutely great to get them outside and doing things that are practical.”
Barbara’s Garden ‘Tranquillity’, located at 149 A’Beckett Road Narre Warren North, will be open to the public from 10am to 4.30pm on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December.
Refreshments, tea, coffee and a sweet treat will be available, as well as a sausage sizzle organised by the Narre Warren Scout Group.
For more information, head to opengardensvictoria.org.au/Tranquility