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  • Trudy Alm

‘Mrs Kingfisher’ an Interview by Trudy Alm

Updated: Feb 16

(Note: Although her name has been changed, locals will be familiar with this long-time gardening aficionado from Comboyne. Killabakh Garden Club visited her astounding garden in October 2013. This piece was written for their newsletter based on an interview with Mrs ‘Kingfisher’. Here it is reprinted with extra photos.)

Mrs Kingfisher is not a dog person. She is a bird person. But that does not mean she likes the crows that have recently moved into the garden, joining their dulcet tones to the dawn chorus.

Peacocks are favoured, of course. It is one of the things Mrs Kingfisher’s garden is

famous for. That, and her scones.

The first peacocks arrived in the early 80s. Mrs Kingfisher had been on an outing with the Taree Garden Club to Mt Wilson where she came across the exotic Indian birds. She was so impressed she drove herself back up there in the station wagon and got herself a cock and two hens. The birds recovered from the nasty shock of being transported in such a manner, settled into their new home and happily bred. The flock has numbered thirty birds. That was too many, “they were driving me bonkers”, so several were sold off to a rehabilitation home. Apparently the full moon sets them off screaming through wee hours of the morning. The peacock population currently numbers eight.

There are also guinea fowl, another noisy bird not recommended for an urban environment. They roost in the trees of a night and are fed regularly in the afternoons. This feeding practise has brought in several brush turkeys which are becoming a nuisance.

The turkeys have been digging up the arum lilies. Angus from ABC Gardening Show claims that only male brush turkeys dig. He obviously has not lived with them! Mrs Kingfisher knows for a fact that the females dig as well and it is quite easy to tell the sexes apart.

The Kingfishers moved onto the property in 1950. There they raised their four children. Two are now academics and are off exploring the world. The other two live nearby: one is a dairy farmer and the other a beef farmer. Between them they own nearly a thousand acres. The garden itself is about two acres but that includes trees and grassed areas.

There is a spring that comes out of the side of the hill leading into a creek that runs through the back of the garden. This area used to be planted with flowers but this has caused erosion so now it is left alone.

Like the rest of us, Mrs Kingfisher is hoping for rain. Even the grass is browning off. They only had one frost this year. It is not cold enough for peonies and tulips don’t last long but hellebores do really well.

The President of the Camellia Research Society came by one day and complimented Mrs Kingfisher on her very nice specimens, “grossly overplanted, of course.” That is what she is now finding with her garden; everything is overgrown and too shaded. She would like a small light weight chainsaw.

She did ask her children, “When I get to be 80yo, will you mow my lawn?” “No!” they replied, “you will still be mowing when you are 90!”

Famous for her scones, Mrs Kingfisher gave up her tearooms in the year 2000. She was in her 70s then and faced the introduction of GST and stricter insurance rules which would have required a kitchen upgrade with an expected cost of nearly $30,ooo. At that point she decided to retire.

Nowadays she plays competition tennis. Last year she bought a new car (she still drives, but slowly) and a new tennis racket.

Many of us have driven past her high dense bamboo hedge and wondered what delights were hidden behind it.

This is the classic Secret Garden to entice anyone with even the slightest tinge of a green heart or a sense of mystery.

Once through the rickety old gate the secrets unfold, and keep unfolding as more ‘rooms’ appear around each corner.

The paths wind and twist. A couple of hours are not nearly long enough to explore all the nooks.

It is not so brown, really. Mrs Kingfisher’s garden is a haven for those of us whose hearts are slowly breaking in the drought.

We stop and drink in the sight of the pond, surrounded by purple flag iris. A bridge over it and steps leading away; there are several views of the pond as one comes across it again, perchance.

And pots.

Pots everywhere.

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