Attila Kapitany is a recognised expert on succulents and he is passionate about them, having written many books on the subject in collaboration with Rudolf Schulz. He is the currently President of the Cactus and Succulent Society of Australia. He is even more passionate about Australian native succulent plants and has recently written a book about them too.

Attila and his wife Michelle purchased a block of land in the outer Melbourne suburb of Narre Warren. Like many people, they could not quite afford to build a house straight away, so they thought they would start the garden while saving to build the house. Years passed and the garden has now become quite established although no house has yet been built. The garden is located in a fairly prestigious (expensive) suburb and Attila likes to refer to their garden as The Million Dollar Garden!

The garden is surrounded on three sides by a hedge of conifers – the fourth side is left open to view a large lake on the land next door. The garden is composed of many large garden beds where succulents of different form, texture and colour thrive together. Several specimens of the Queensland bottle tree Brachychiton rupestris dot the garden as does a Ceiba speciosa. Large succulents include yuccas, beaucarneas, agaves, aloes, Gymea lilies (Doryanthes excelsa) and furcraeas. The collection of aloes comes into its own in winter and the local honeyeaters (birds) love to drink the nectar these plants produce. In spring, the jewel–like hues of the Mesembryanthemum light up the garden beds as do the pelargoniums. There is a great range of echeverias, a particular favourite of Attila’s, as well as unusual plants like Dyckia (members of the bromeliad family).

There is also a small vegetable garden as well as some roses for picking. Attila and Michelle are away plant hunting or lecturing a lot of the time and this garden was designed to cope for weeks without watering, weeding or pruning. All paths and bare areas are mulched with a fine gravel mulch. After the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 a bushfire burnt the park near his house and gave them a big scare. The garden came through the temperatures of 46 ̊C that summer pretty well.

There is always something to see and marvel at in this garden which is occasionally open through Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

Melanie Kinsey

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