Kath Gadd’s company is Mallee Design, a garden design business that uses only Australian plants, and does a neat sideline in beautiful, spun copper birdbaths.
Interview: Robin Powell
What inspired you to specialise in native plants?
After studying permaculture and horticulture and working in Sydney for a landscape designer, I moved to Wollongong and started working at the Sydney Wildflower
Nursery. I realised there was just no need to use plants that I don’t get really excited about. For me it’s not even environmental so much as aesthetic.
I just find Australian plants way better looking. The flowers are more interesting and the foliage is beautiful and so diverse.
Has that decision limited you at all?
No, not all. You can use native plants in all sort of designs, from formal to informal. It depends what people want. I do a lot of habitat gardens for
people at the moment, designing specifically to encourage wildlife into the garden. People want to see the skinks and blue tongues and birds - even
the possums. They want to go out in the garden and watch critters doing their thing.
Meet Kath Gadd from Mallee Design. Photo - Robin Powell
Is that how your copper birdbaths came about?
I couldn't find any birdbaths I liked to put into the gardens I was designing, so I designed my own. They are made by a metal spinner using sheet copper.
There are different sizes, but they are all shallow because when birds bathe they like to have their feet on the ground and then splash - it’s like
a big puddle really. I usually put a rock in the middle of the larger sizes - the birds like to go between two solid areas - hopping between the rim
and the rock in the centre.
Are different birds attracted to different baths?
Yes, the big ones on the ground are more for the perching birds that are up high in the trees. They like to dive bomb, so they like a bigger landing pad.
The smaller birds like a bath in the shrubbery, in part-shade, and they hop from their habitat to the water. So I make stands and plinths for the baths
too, and design planting around them.
Kath also has a neat sideline in beautiful, spun copper birdbaths.
Do you need to keep rinsing them out?
Not often. The copper oxidises the water so it doesn't grow algae or mozzie larvae.
Yes, but it wasn’t my plan. I chose copper because it’s so pretty, its light to move around and it ages so beautifully and actually strengthens as it gets
that patina. Someone came up to me at a plant fair and said ‘Oh, that's so clever, a mosquito-free birdbath!’ and explained the chemistry to me. I
was pretty pleased!
For more on Kath’s birdbaths and designs, go to www.malleedesign.com.au, and to find out about one of her favourite garden plants, turn the page!