We make a wonderful bargain when we start a garden. A kind of reliable wager with the universe. In exchange for time, toil, sweat and determination, every gardener is assured a return — eventually — of life, beauty, satisfaction and, if your name is Tom Hogg, six very worn-out wheelbarrows.
“I’m onto my third cement mixer too,” Tom tells me as we survey the garden he began creating 20 years ago.
Back then, at age 60, a leisurely retirement could not have been farther from Tom’s mind.
While some might spend their 60s playing golf, reading books, going on vacations or generally taking things easy, Tom decided the time was ripe to purchase an overgrown property with a flood-prone creek and to spend the next several years landscaping it with nothing but a shovel, a crowbar, six wheelbarrows, three cement mixers and 2000 tonnes of stone (all laid by Tom’s own undaunted hands).
When he bought the property in 2000, it had been on the market for 12 months. Due to its intimidating unkempt wilderness, no one had dared to buy it. Tom wasn’t deterred.
“I could see through the fog and I could see all the amazing things that could be done with it. It just needed a lot of hard work and some unique, creative thinking.”
What followed were several years of gruelling physical labour.
“The creek was all strangled. I had to clear it completely before I could start any of the terracing,” Tom explains, showing me photos of his garden’s transformation.
He dug out and enlarged the creek, added waterfalls, ponds and terraces, and built an amphitheatre, all while working part-time in a newsagency he owns.
“I was doing three 10-hour days in the newsagency and the other four days I’d be working in the garden from 5am until 8pm — head down, tail up.”
It was worth the effort. The garden, once wild, is now a series of stone paths that wind through trees, ferns and nectar-filled flowers.
The sounds of running water and birdsong follow you everywhere. There are arched bridges, lily ponds and steps — all built by hand from stone that Tom sourced from every corner of Perth.
“I was buying rocks from York to start with, 10 tonnes at a time, then I started watching the Quokka for them, going all over Perth to pick up people’s rubbish — down to Mullalooo, Rockingham, all over the place.”
The birds and frogs that now call Tom’s garden home aren’t the only beneficiaries of his efforts.
For 19 years Tom has opened his garden to the public for tours, parties, weddings and concerts, raising half a million dollars for charity.
And although at the time of writing Tom is recovering from a knee operation, I’ve no doubt he will soon be drawn irresistibly back to his garden.
As I turn to leave, I spy one of many hand-painted signs dotted through Tom’s garden. It reads: “Every garden is an autobiography”. This is indeed one hefty and beautiful tome.
Want to visit Tom’s garden? It will be open Saturday October 1 and Sunday October 2 from 10am-4.30pm at 3 Lilian Road, Maida Vale.