Organic Gardening

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In The Garden

A Potted History of Margaret River Organic Garden & Mannsfield House

A unique and special place exists in the heart of Margaret River…a place of tranquility and ever evolving natural change…a place of community and friendship…a place for nurture and growth. If you are lucky enough to live in or near Margaret River in the South West of Western Australia, are holidaying for a while or even just passing through…the Margaret River Organic Garden & Mannsfield House, nestled in between the Margaret River High School and University buildings makes for a memorable visit.

Organic garden entranceThis is the first of a regular series of articles which will highlight the Margaret River Organic Garden and it seems right to start at the beginning and provide a potted history…courtesy of the volunteer organic gardeners themselves…

The land where the garden now grows was once owned by a wonderful gardener named Katherine Crofts, and her family. The building on the site is named after the old group settlement house they lived in during the 1920′s and 30′s. Katherine’s inspiration and love of plants is reflected today throughout the garden.

The gardens were started in September, 1988 by members of The Margaret River Alternative Technology Centre as an educational space to encourage local families to grow their own vegetables, herbs and flowers in an environmentally friendly manner. The Margaret River High School kindly lent the land (almost 2 acres) to the community for this purpose.Organic garden meeting place

In the years since, the gardens have matured into a beautiful if somewhat rambling oasis in the heart of the town. All the plants have been gifted or acquired by generous donations from the community and the garden planted and tended by local people.

The object of the garden is not to be a showcase but rather a child friendly community space where visitors are encouraged to meditate, sing, paint or rest and listen to the many birds that reside within.

The Organic Garden building (Mannsfield House) was constructed in 1993. It was designed by an artist and built from recycled materials by a local environmental scientist and volunteers. The building is used for a wide variety of community celebrations. There have been many workshops on energy efficiency, composting and appropriate building techniquOrganic garden angel and housees including the straw bale method.

Benefits of these community rooms include the feeling of group ownership, energy efficient design, low cost of building and the capacity to use the space in a variety of ways. The Organic Garden has sponsored many employment programs over the years. One of these programs enabled two artists to work in and around the garden and buildings creating organically designed furniture and sculptures which have enhanced the magical ambience of the space. Walking around the gardens visitors come across straw bale sculptures and brightly coloured painted wooden seats. A highlight in the gardens was a Steiner School production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which took place in the amphitheatre on a warm, December night.

Today, the organic garden continues to thrive. It is a beautiful venue for The Wishing Star Playgroup and the Margaret River High school uses it for photography, film making and drama. Margaret River TAFE uses the garden for parts of their Horticulture course, as does their Art Department and Photography classes. Visitors are always welcome to join the community events and classes that presently take place throughout the year or simply enjoy the space for what it is.

A regular number of volunteers garden each Wednesday afternoon, stopping for tea and cake under the old jacaranda tree. If you would like to join in, have some fun and enjoy great company in beautiful surroundings why not consider becoming a volunteer yourself? Feel free to just turn up from 12.30pm onwards on any Wednesday afternoon (you’ll be greeted with some very warm smiles!) Alternatively please contact Jillian Taylor on 9758 7932 or Felicity Haynes on 9757 4014. You can also make a much welcomed donation towards helping with the gardens upkeep and ongoing maintenance of Mannsfield House. Donations of money, plants, garden ornaments or seats which would be suitable for incorporation into the garden will all be gratefully received.

Until next time – happy gardening !