Habitat gardens open to the public

There was barely a twig to be seen when Merril and Alwyn started their habitat garden project only five years ago.

Now, the Karalee property on a bend of the Brisbane River hosts all sorts of wildlife which the family note in a visitor book of sorts – from a little echidna to a “gargantuan” stick insect and many birds.

The garden is one of three featured in the Sustainable Open Garden Trail on 7 October as part of Sustainable Ipswich Month celebrations. Registrations for the free event are at

Alwyn said they knew from the start they wanted to create a garden for wildlife.

“We like going bushwalking and we wanted to have native wildlife around us. We also wanted our kids to grow up with a connection to nature,” he said.

Coming from overseas, we had an impression that Australia is dry with not much water, so we wanted a waterwise garden. We felt using local native flora would be the way to do that.


Habitat Gardens landholder

They joined council’s free Habitat Gardens program, which provides members with resources such as free plants from council’s nursery to help improve environmental outcomes in urban areas.

Merril said they had a lot of learning to do about Australian native plants and what worked in Ipswich conditions. But “as long as it’s native, we’ll give it a go”.

We used the information on the plant cards only – the height and light (requirements).

If we can do it, anyone can do it.


Habitat Gardens landholder

After only five years, the change has been extraordinary. The garden has been sectioned into ‘beds’ where species of similar vegetation types have been grouped together.

An effort has been made to build habitat structures both vertically and horizontally to make it attractive for creatures to explore.

A dry creek bed meanders through the garden, created to manage stormwater on the sloping site. Ephemeral ponds fringed by lomandra retain stormwater so it can absorb into the soil. In wet times these areas are full of frog song.

The plants have been deliberately selected for attracting birds – white holly for fig birds and fruit-eating animals, wattles for corellas and rosellas, grevilleas for honeyeaters, grasses for the seed-eaters like double-barred finches and lots of flowering plants to attract insects for insectivores.

It was when these bird visitors also started to build nests – in branches and in the rock wall – that Alwyn and Merril knew their habitat vision from five years ago was a success.

Environment and Sustainability Committee Chairperson Deputy Mayor Russell Milligan said the hugely popular Sustainable Open Garden Trail was the first major event being celebrated in this year’s Sustainable Ipswich Month.

“Sustainable Ipswich Month is the perfect opportunity to be inspired by the latest knowledge and ideas for living sustainably at home, work and play,” Deputy Mayor Milligan said.

We know from developing our community vision that Ipswich aspires to lead the way as a clean and green city with a circular economy.

Deputy Mayor Milligan

Ipswich City Council

“There are many ways the community can get involved, with a huge program of free and low-cost events throughout October.

“A major highlight is our inaugural Ipswich Sustainable Living Festival, taking over Tulmur Place in Nicholas Street Precinct on Saturday 21 October.

“Celebrating its first year in the Sustainable Ipswich program, the festival is set to be a one-stop-shop for living sustainably in our city with practical demonstrations, live family entertainment, food stalls, upcycled artisans, workshops, council’s mobile nursery and more.”

“There really is something for everyone throughout this year’s Sustainable Ipswich program. By working together, Ipswich can be a vibrant and sustainable city now and for future generations.”

For a full program of events and activities, visit

Read also:

>> Sustainability in the spotlight this October across Ipswich

>> Ipswich Plan 2024 protects the environment for future generations

>> Mobile nursery now with new dates to make Ipswich greener

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