Tropical ‘labour of love’ places Helen Phillips among spring garden award winners
Murray Bridge’s 2021 spring garden awards have been presented – find out who all the winners are.
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This is the garden that Helen and Robert built.
Through more than 25 years of their marriage, they travelled up and back to Queensland to hand-pick palm trees, ferns and bromeliads for their tropical oasis, searching for species that could tolerate Mypolonga’s biting winter frosts and baking hot summer sunshine.
Each year they added a bit more: a water feature here, some new edging there.
Almost four years have passed now since the late Mr Phillips last set foot in the garden.
But on Wednesday, when it was named a winner in Murray Bridge’s spring garden competition, Mrs Phillips knew he would have been proud.
“I did this for him,” she said, looking around all that they built together.
“He put a lot of effort into this.
“He built everything, all the rock walls ... we hand-picked all the rocks and everything.
“It has been a labour of love.”
She had ummed and ahhed about entering the awards for a few years.
When the judges visited, earlier in the spring, they were so impressed that they had to invent a new award category: best tropical garden.
Raindrops pattered on foliage on Wednesday afternoon and a dozen different birdsongs drowned out the distant lowing of cattle as Mrs Phillips took Murray Bridge News on a tour.
What once had been native scrub and a few roses between an apricot orchard and Balanada Drive now felt like an island paradise.
Exotic birds squawked as she passed their aviaries, shrieking “hello babe” or “how are you going?”
Apparently one macaw, now living down the street, still calls out “phone, Robert”.
“He’s always here,” Mrs Phillips said with a smile.
Award ceremony celebrates green thumbs’ enthusiasm
In the end, a total of nine awards were presented in this year’s spring garden awards.
Each received a framed certificate and a Serenity Nursery voucher at a short ceremony at the Murray Bridge council office on Wednesday morning.
The winners included:
Large garden: Jan and Rob Smyth/John Harvie (tied)
Small garden: Melissa Wilson-Kramer
Senior’s garden: Margaret Cook
Sustainable garden: Ross and Sandra Schrapel
Encouragement award: Janice and Raymond Hutchinson
An award for the best school garden went to Jervois Primary School, whose entry “demonstrated great collaboration and innovation”, according to acting Murray Bridge council CEO Heather Barclay.
The community garden judged the best was at the Murraylands Retirement Village, thanks to residents’ contributions.
“It was apparent that the residents who lived there took great pride in their gardens,” Ms Barclay said.
Ms Barclay thanked all entrants for their enthusiasm and passion, and for making Murray Bridge a more beautiful place.
She also paid tribute to the late council staffer Maggie MacNeill, who did much of the organising for the awards ceremony and visited entrants’ gardens prior to her tragic death in a road accident on October 22.
Disclosure: The author accepted a gift of several macaw feathers from Mrs Phillips.