Down their garden path

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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Spring is well and truly on our doorstep, so how are passionate gardeners living on farms and facing water shortages coping? Kate Matthews finds out

For the last 40 years, Doreen Bignell’s garden at Kemminup Farm Homestay, a delightful bed and breakfast just outside Kojonup, has been a work in progress.

There have been battles against the elements — wet and freezing winters, hail storms, dry springs and long, hot summers.

There is also the fierce competition for the most precious commodity of all — water — and thirsty stock always come first, not gardens.

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Next month, Doreen will open her garden to the public along with two other gardens in Kojonup as part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme.

Doreen’s sprawling garden shows what can be done with little water and includes a number of themed areas — natives and everlastings planted among rocky granite outcrops; succulents surrounding a treasure trove of relics; a frog pond; and a giant Golden Cyrus under-planted with clivias, the coolest place to be in summer.

Besides the natives and hardy plants, there is so much to see — scattered farm machinery and memorabilia, such as old gates and wheels from the Kemminup museum, including ploughs and harvesters.

Plus, when you look out of the open garden, the surrounding paddocks offer natural views.

But there is one standout feature of this garden that is truly unique and very water-wise — the rustic sculptured artwork designed and produced by Doreen’s husband, Trevor.

Entering the driveway, the first piece of artwork, a giant steel plate that has a needle, thread and patchwork welded on one side and a picture frame on the other, beckons visitors in.

Not far away is another giant steel plate with a rustic farm scene with trees, a fence, sheds, windmill and ute to captivate your attention.

There is a giant emu made out of curved bits of steel with old header comb fingers welded in place for the feathers and bolts for his toes.

Every piece of art has its own story, including the 2.5 metre high bird’s nest.

Made out of a white gum, which grew on rocks, it’s been turned upside down and had a metal bird and her chicks placed on top.

There is also a grass tree made out of steel rods and smaller steel frames depicting simple rural landscapes.

The most impressive is a 2.5 metre by one metre steel plate, in which Trevor has replicated the only picture he has of his grandfather, complete with a Sunshine harvester and team of horses. The piece was mig-welded on a windy day on a 4mm steel plate and coated with marine varnish.

“It weighs a tonne and we had to bring it in with a front end loader, ” Trevor said.

“When I was going to school, I used to do a lot of drawing. About five years ago when caravanning with some friends, a lot of funny things happened and I started a scrap book of pictures, ” he said.

“Now I just pick up a piece of chalk and draw. I don’t think about it. It’s just there.”

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