Steep learning curve for garden lovers

November 6, 2023 BY

In spring, the roses put on a spectacular show of colour and perfume with a pretty support act of iris, perennials including salvias, bulbs and succulents, both in pots and in the ground.

Jill Eckermann’s childhood memories revolve around playing in her family garden and her parents often showcased their large country garden as part of the Open Gardens SA scheme.

Safe to say she was destined to not only create a stunning garden of her own but that she would throw open the gates to the public and this weekend she is one of three Penola gardens taking part in the Open Gardens SA scheme with all three raising money for the CWA.

Jill’s in-laws and their German family were also passionate gardeners so the writing was on the wall that Jill and Geoff Eckermann would also have a focus on their own garden.

The couple lived on a farm 25km from Penola when they were first married with producing food the focus of their gardening exploits, as well as nurturing native plants, but it has been in semi-retirement on a property just on the outskirts of the town that the real experimentation and focus on creating a garden haven emerged.

“We were now dealing with heavy black clay over limestone which is mud in winter and cracks in summer so not many natives like this hard soil,” Jill said, of the early attempts to establish a garden. “We had a huge learning curve with lots of failures.”

And so the mammoth task of building their garden began.

“A wind break was the first step as we had no shelter but we wanted to keep the views from the house to the paddocks and huge gumtrees,” Jill said. “The landscaping gradually took shape with this as a proprietary and is still ongoing.”

It was during COVID that Jill started to extend the garden and it has been a work in progress ever since as she combines her green thumb with an eye for creating stunning art.

“I love creating and I’m constantly changing things,” Jill said. “Gardening and water colour painting are my two passions, so my time is spent in the garden or studio most days along with family.

“Picking flowers from the garden and then arranging them to paint, give away or for functions would have to be the best reward from the work of in the garden.

“But when it’s a passion it is not work but my physical exercise, mental therapy, my pleasure time and happiness and I’m lucky and thankful to be able to have this lifestyle especially to be able to choose when I’m outside in the garden when the weather is nice.”

Of course in the lead up to showcasing their garden across a weekend means plenty of time in the garden as the rose enthusiasts look to present their extensive collection of roses as well as beautiful trees, perennials and hardy succulents.

In spring, the roses put on a spectacular show of colour and perfume with a pretty support act of iris, perennials including salvias, bulbs and succulents, both in pots and in the ground.

The many roses are varied – there are lovely blowsy, modern cultivars as well as heritage varieties, bush roses, a number of the very popular David Austins and climbers – some planted to make a display of colour as they clamber up into trees.

With a backdrop of majestic old red gums, areas of lawn and paths wrap around garden beds filled with foliage and flowers.

Mature trees including three Chinese tallow wood, red oak, silver birches, and Cashmere pines provide shade and shelter, and give the garden a well-established feel.

Jill and Geoff are keen recyclers and have used pre-loved materials to add individuality and personality to the garden – old pots have been re-used, cast iron troughs have been re-purposed and filled with plants and discarded timbers used to create structures and supports for climbing roses.

Quirky touches of garden art include a delightful trio of terracotta pigs, and there is a thriving productive garden.


Address: 77 Weirs Lane, Penola

Open: Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 November 2023, 10AM to 4.30PM

Please bring cash as EFTPOS facilities are not always available.

Please note: Opening with two other Penola gardens: $10/$8 each or $25 for all three.

Extra Activities: Coffee van. Potted roses for sale by Wagner’s Roses. Mannings Sculptures will have small and large sculptures for sale. Artist’s studio open.