PEACEFUL PASSION: Irene Dowling said gardening was a good tranquiliser.
PEACEFUL PASSION: Irene Dowling said gardening was a good tranquiliser. Julia Bartrim

We take a peek into the backyard of two keen gardeners

THE glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul - so said English poet Alfred Austin.

Gladstone couple Irene and Len Dowling would no doubt agree.

The Dowlings are president and treasurer of the Gladstone Orchid and Foliage Society, and as you might expect they have a beautiful garden themselves.

They maintain a bed of succulents and cacti along one side of the garden, as well as a silky soft lawn and numerous garden beds overflowing with flowers.

But their pride and joy is at the back of their garden: an enormous bush house covered in green shade cloth, containing hundreds and hundreds of potted plants. The bush house includes a vast range of orchids and amazing air plants which literally grow in the air, needing no soil to put down roots.

The Dowlings hand water their collection of bush house plants, and say it helps keep them in touch with subtle changes in their charges.

"That way you can see what's happening with your plants, if they've got diseases or something chewing on them," Mrs Dowling said.

Not all of us have the time for the upkeep of so many plants - it takes the Dowlings hours to water all theirs.

But nonetheless, for those keen to have a go at gardening, Mrs Dowling's advice is simple. "Everything is trial and error, some people can grow just about everything.

"It depends on the area, where (you) put it, you move it around until you find the right position."

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