Inspirational urban food forest in the beating heart of Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Owner: David Elliot
Location: Footscray, Victoria. Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung & Boon Wurrung Country
Climate Zone: Cool temperate
Garden established: 2010
Style: Space-saving productive garden
There are more than 50 different species of fruiting trees, shrubs and vines in this small garden, many of them unusual or tropical. David attributes a large part of their success to the near-perfect position of his garden. “It’s north-facing, it’s sheltered and protected, and with the fencing and the house we have a fair retention of heat and thermal mass, which has created a lovely microclimate.”
A sentimental favourite is the Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia). “I’m very excited about these as they are indigenous to the area of Canada I grew up in and I have fond memories of being in the bush and gorging on these delicious berries.” These haven’t fruited yet, but David is hopeful.
Another favourite is the Wampi (Clausenium wampi), which he describes as having fruit “that is a smaller, more citrusy version of a lychee, but without the seed”.
One group of plants that have benefitted from this warmer microclimate are his collection of Caricas – the small family of soft-stemmed sub-tropical fruits from the pawpaw family. David has a Babaco that he describes as “a striking plant, quite cold hardy and very productive. The fruit are a bit on the sour side but still pretty good.” and a Mountain Papaya (Carica pubescens).
A family favourite is the Cherimoya custard apple, which David propagated from seed in 2014.
Grafted Lemon Gold and Ortega White Sapotes (Casimoroa edulis) sit in the back-left hand corner of the garden. David says they are “very sweet and creamy. The first time my Lemon Gold tree fruited I estimated it had over 500 apple sized fruits.”
There are also plums, nectarines, a multi-grafted apples, grapes, figs and a raft of citrus (limes, lemons, oranges, mandarins and tangelos), many of them grown in space-saving ways, such as miniatures, in pots to limit size, or espaliered.
David also grows many Australian native food plants, such as lilly pillies and Eucalypts.
Vertical space is used to great effect, with 10 differing grape varieties growing along fence-lines. He has used Cherry Guava as a hedge at the front of the house, alternating the red and yellow varieties. This is a fantastic way to increase productive plants at a property – get rid of the traditional ornamental hedge and replace it with something delicious!
David is also a potter, and many of his works can be found throughout the garden, particularly in the greenhouse where is rapidly expanding collection of orchids are displayed artfully in his quirky pots. “I’ve begun to relax my ‘edibles only’ policy, and am starting to embrace collections of ornamental plants as well”.
David, a mental-health nurse, spends about eight hours a week pottering and perfecting his pocket of suburbia. “For me gardening is my time, and a nice diversion from my work, which can be stressful,” David says. “I just love it, and I love the learnings and joy it brings”.
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