Amanda ComminsThe rise, and demise, of a verge garden

A few years ago we planted a native verge garden. The local council supports verge plantings so long as certain conditions including those regarding plant height are followed. We complied, planting a variety of low growing plants, and all was good. Until recently that is.

verge garden before

Our verge garden before – a mix of Grevillea, Eremophila, Verticordia and Leschenaultia

Our verge garden has survived many things – feet, dogs (ours included), weeds, wheels, several very hot summers and pests. It has co-habited happily with all these risks and generally thrived, provided shelter and food to many little critters and enjoyment to us and others. However, recently there has been one scourge too many – in the form of the local council and its trusty contractors.
We received a circular from the council advising us that our slab footpath was to be replaced with a poured concrete path. The reason for this was stated to be that concrete paths have no tripping hazards, are cheaper to maintain, and are smoother for prams and wheelchairs. What the council didn’t mention was that the footpath was being widened.

Verticordia chrysantha (yellow feather flower)

Verticordia chrysantha (yellow feather flower)

To be honest we knew that the footpath replacement, and probable widening, was coming as this had happened, over time, on surrounding streets. I was caught between a desire for it to happen, so I didn’t have to wonder when it would, and a desire for the council to forget about our section of footpath.

When the contractors first arrived I asked them if they would like me to cut the garden back – no they would do it and they would be careful. Fine I thought. And so I watched from the lounge room to see one guy standing on one side of the garden demolishing half the plants – and another guy standing/stomping on the remaining ‘unaffected’ section digging up what had been ‘pruned’. I calmly (a miracle) suggested that it might give some of the remaining plants a small chance if they both worked from the same side. A small positive.

roots of Eucalyptus caesiaOn next viewing we noticed that our Eucalyptus caesia (grown from seed and lovingly tended for the last 3 years or so) was in danger of being damaged by our hose which was connected to our tap (all well and truly inside our boundary) as it was being stretched across our lawn and used by the contractors. Not happy Jan.

At this point I decided I should move to the backyard – I thought it might be best if I couldn’t see what was going on. But then the concrete truck arrived so I stayed – for better or for worse.
As the large unwieldy concrete truck lumbered back and forth over the strip of verge lawn, my spirits plummeted as I came to the sad realisation that the only thing between the truck and the new path was the remaining sliver of verge garden. The dizzy limit was seeing the remaining plants stomped on during the levelling process when the contractor could have, more easily, stood on the lawn to complete this process. Time to have words.

Leschenaultia biloba (and a small section of the footpath before replacement)

Leschenaultia biloba (and a small section of the footpath before replacement)

Whilst I understand that the contractor had a job to do, the comment from one guy that he had a hundred other things that were more important than my plants – the job, the traffic, the weather etc etc really didn’t help. I pointed out to him (perhaps not so calmly) that they were important to me. Things were not looking good until I asked him if he had a hobby, a boat perhaps that he wouldn’t like damaged, and that this was my hobby and just as important to me as something that was important to him. This did at least seem to make some sort of impact and he said he’d be as careful as possible.

the new footpathWhilst I am sad about the plants, the overwhelming frustration is the ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ displayed. I know they just see me and my garden as an annoyance but I would have been much less of an interruption if they had just displayed a bit more care through the process. And in this allegedly environmentally enlightened world, why is it that plants are often seen as far less valuable than a car or a boat or a painting. People that wouldn’t think to damage / vandalise something like a car or a painting, don’t appear to think twice about stomping on a plant (and often won’t even see it). Maybe the next generations will do better – maybe.

Anyway the verge garden will rise again – and yes it is an opportunity for change, renewal and improvement. But wouldn’t it be nice to think that we might also see a change in attitude, both to plants and other people’s belongings.

So now we have more concrete and less nature – and this from a council that recently adopted a new policy to encourage open streetscapes and landscaping whilst reducing the amount of hard surfaces – go figure.

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Amanda Commins

About Amanda Commins

Amanda has no formal qualifications in gardening and has not authored any gardening books. However what she lacks in formal qualifications she makes up for in enthusiasm. Her interest in gardening developed during her 30s and has become a bit of an overwhelming passion. Amanda lives in Perth and is particularly interested in native and waterwise plants.

8 thoughts on “The rise, and demise, of a verge garden

  1. Sandra Pullman on said:

    I am sad to hear about your nature strip from the men with big careless feet. Really gets my goat, they couldn’t careless and when you mention it, they glare at you for having the cheek to question them. I hope it bounces back and gives you pleasure again.
    Cheers Sandi in Port Melbourne – our council workers are the same.

    • Amanda Commins on said:

      Many thanks Sandi – fortunately nature is already fighting back…

  2. helen mckerral on said:

    Oh Amanda, I FEEL YOUR PAIN!
    Great post, but unfortunately can’t see it changing anytime soon!

    • Amanda Commins on said:

      Thanks Helen. No, not me either – we can but hope.

  3. Living well is the best revenge, Amanda, Get another lovely garden going around the path and show the council you cannot keep a good gal down.
    Maybe suggest to the council that a fitting compensation to your hurt feelings and hard work wd be to take a picture of your restored and blooming footpath and put it on their brochures to inspire others to beautify their local environment. What good PR that would buy them for the local news media.

  4. Jeff Howes on said:

    I feel for you.
    It never ceases to horrify me the way tradesmen/contractors/many of the general public are unable to see or care about plants in a garden situation.
    It appears to me that those of us that love and grow plants are in the minority. Oh so sad as it is such a rewarding hobby.

    • Anne-Marie Strickland on said:

      What I’d really like to know, Amanda, is which Council it was. They are at liberty to use another contractor. Sounds like your Council has a lot to answer for.

  5. Catspot Quoll on said:

    Hi Amanda,
    What a dreadful experience. You did your best, but these blokes were oafs.

    I live in a VERY hot climate like yours, Northern NSW. My next door neighbour complained that ‘trees are dirty things’ and concreted his entire back yard! Surrounded by those ghastly metal fences that are de rigeur now in Australia now (oh for a weathered, mossy paling fence), it was an oven.
    I continued to grow my trees and enjoy the shade and leaves!

    My mother had a gorgeous bush garden she made entirely on her own. Stunning. When it was time to sell the home, the agents said ‘You’ll have to clear out that rubbish’.
    Some folks just don’t see the beauty in plants.

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