AUTOMATED GARDEN: Bev Marbach, with husband Roy, created the garden at McCleods to be as low-maintenance as possible.
AUTOMATED GARDEN: Bev Marbach, with husband Roy, created the garden at McCleods to be as low-maintenance as possible. Jack Lawrie

Easier than could be expected

LOOKING at Bev Marbach's garden, one would not get the impression that she hardly has to work on it.

The garden, located up along McCleods Rd covers roughly an acre of space, featuring lush tropical flowers and shrubs, a fruit orchard and many statues and features.

Bev started the garden in 1992, shortly after moving into her husband Roy's property.

"The garden is always evolving, it's changed a lot since then,” Bev said.

Bev and Roy were part of the Ventnor School restoration and still occasionally contribute to maintaining the gardens there.

When Bev first arrived at the Ventnor property, near Monto, there was a wattle tree at the front, a couple of Captain Cook bushes, the mango tree at the front, some banana trees and little else.

At the time, she enjoyed mowing the area around the house with the push-mower, but realised a lot of the empty space could be put to better use.

While Roy, and Bev's son Scott Long, help out from time to time, the vast majority of the garden management is done by Bev.

"My view is I've got four and a half thousand acres of garden; I don't need any more,” Roy said, referring to the total property.

Low maintenance

The biggest feature of the garden is that watering is almost entirely automated, using sprinkler systems to keep the thirstier plants fresh.

"I don't spend every day on my garden; it pretty well looks after itself,” Bev said.

"It's pretty permanent and low-maintenance; there's weeds to pull out, but I don't have to go around dead-heading plants.”

The garden uses tropical plants, characterised by tall, green, lush plants to ensure that no matter what happens, it won't be hard to find something beautiful.

Using ground-covering plants, such as violets and topiary trees, they're able to retain moisture in the soil which reduces the amount of extra watering needed.

"All my things that flower are self-seeding: I don't plant anything extra,” Bev said.

"I don't plant annuals because it would go against my view that a garden should be something you enjoy, and annuals take too much time and work.”

There are many statues and features, including an old Hawaiian Princess, two cherubs kissing and a little fisherman, which Bev has a personal fondness for.

They use a solar pump from a nearby dam to supply the water, and the sprinklers water it two or three times a week.

The system isn't infallible; birds occasionally peck at the sprinklers requiring them to be reset and a prominent water feature out the front wasn't working at the time of the visit.

The garden is built to last, though it had begun to deteriorate from the drought weather before last month's rain arrived.

The property received 40mm for the month of March, a significant reversal of fortune.

Being on a slope, the flood water created waterways all through the garden, but didn't cause much major damage.

The Marbachs mainly garden for aesthetics, but there is a fruit orchard in the next yard over and a vegetable patch currently in the works.

Gardening attitude

Bev's principles about gardening are rare for many hobby gardeners.

"A lot of people say they spend four, five six hours every day in their garden, but that's not on as far as I'm concerned,” she said.

"There's other things in life than your garden and that makes you a slave to your garden, which i don't want to be.”

In the establishment of the garden, Bev was more hands-on, but from it's very inception, the goal was always to establish ground cover early and make something that was beautiful and low maintenance.

These days, Bev's main source of labour comes from mowing the grass.

"I mow up and down the roadways on the ride-on; it takes me about six hours,” she said.

"I can't push mow any longer because I can't walk behind the mower.”

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