There’s a spot in my garden that is a lovely place to sit in the winter. The sun hits your back at just the right angle, but the garden there is dismal between about May and September. I have started to make it a winter-shining garden and my 2020 garden goal is to have it looking great come July. Other gardeners I’ve been talking to have bigger plans for the new year.

Rick Shepherd, Head Gardener at Retford Park in Bowral, is making 2020 the year of the micro-organism. He has been reading Charles Massey’s Call of the Reed Warbler and thinking about conversations he’s had with fungi expert Alison Pouliot. As a result, his 2020 plan is to increase the diversity and health of mycorrhizae in the soil at Retford.

The garden at Retford Park. Bowral.

The garden at Retford Park. Bowral.Credit:Robin Powell

One of Pouliot’s recommendations is for mulch in diverse sizes to suit a range of micro-organisms. “My first idea was to throw our branch prunings back under the trees,” says Shepherd, “but people have certain expectations of what a National Trust garden should look like, and ‘mess’ under the trees doesn’t fit. So I’ve been thinking about more aesthetically pleasing approaches.”

The solution he’s hit on is to collect the most interesting, twisted and lichen-crusted branches from the prunings, trim them into regular lengths and use them as “necklaces around the trees” – neat enough for visitors, messy enough for life.

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