Meet Claire Bickle20 September 2016 Robin Powell
Meet Claire Bickle
Claire Bickle writes, talks and lives horticulture and sustainability. An expert on subtropical gardening, she’s also a self-confessed ‘poultry tragic’ and the Garden Clinic go-to for advice on backyard birds.
Meet Claire Bickle. Writer, horticulture expert and self-confessed ‘poultry tragic’. Photo - Robin Powell
An interview with Robin Powell
What drew you to horticulture?
I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child, and she was an avid gardener and plant person, and at 88 she still is. She was a member of the Camellia Society and Australian Society for Growing Australian Plants, and took me along to shows, and out collecting seeds. She imprinted her love of plants and gardens on me.
And when did chickens become a part of what you do?
I followed up my horticulture certificate with a Permaculture Design Certificate, and that’s when I first heard about integrating animals into garden design. I thought that’s a good idea, and so even when we were renting, we got into chickens, and soon became poultry tragics, with quails, ducks, guinea fowl and geese as well as the chickens.
Flowers in Claire’s garden. Photo - Robin Powell
What’s your own garden like?
We finally stopped being renters two years ago and bought nearly two acres just west of Brisbane. It has sensational views from a sloping north-east aspect, but the trade-off is that there is no soil. We needed to terrace and swale the slope to slow the water run-off. The garden around the house features all kinds of things – flowering cottage plants, a range of fabulous aloes, mature tropical pear, avocado and jacaranda, and we’ve planted lots of natives.
On the next level, we’ve put in a vegie garden, fenced to keep the wallabies out, with a big pond. The pond was a problem turned into an opportunity – a massive gum tree had fallen over, and when we dragged it away, the root ball left a hole about 3m across and 2m deep. So we lined it and it’s now growing water vegetables as well as some water lilies.
Where are the chickens?
They’re on the next level down and their chook Taj Mahal is nearly finished. There’ll be ducks and geese as well, and then the bottom level is bush and we want to leave that as it is.
What’s your favourite garden tool at the moment?
My ho-mi is great for digging around established plants and chipping out weeds. I use it a lot.
What’s the gardening book you keep going back to?
My friend Annette McFarlane’s Organic Vegetable Gardening. The other day I was wondering what else I should plant and instead of doing the hard thinking myself I went to Annette’s book! I recommend it a lot to subtropical vegetable gardeners.
Members can meet Claire at a special Garden Clinic Gardening Class at the Brisbane International Garden Show at Strathpine on October 6 or follow her Claire Bickle Gardening for the GoodLife facebook page.
Claire’s vegetable patch. Photo - Robin Powell