Guiltfree Garden Solutions

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Feeling guilty that you’re too busy to devote time to your garden?If things are looking a bit overgrown or neglected outdoors at your place, Kia Allen and her passionate team can help you landscape, prune, mulch, and plant your yard back into a blooming showpiece!

Hi Kia. What’s your background in our area?

Like many who have “seen the light”, I relocated from Sydney’s Northern Beaches two and a half years ago. The climate here is amazing, and plants just thrive here also.

What led you to study horticulture?

It was a journey to horticulture, after early studies in Environmental Science, leading to work in the Queensland tourism industry – diving and adventure travel, retraining in Rehabilitation Studies after a career-changing knee injury, then a move to the corporate world for 17 years. 

A redundancy allowed me to follow my passion and reconnect with gardening. Studying horticulture just felt like finding what I was always supposed to be doing. 

Tell us a bit about your business – Guiltfree Gardening Solutions. What’s the meaning behind the business’ name?

Guiltfree Garden Solutions initially started eight years ago, when my daughter was in Kindy and I was on a corporate-career break. After designing and landscaping two of my own home gardens, I worked for a large landscape supply company and also within their retail and production nurseries. 

I started a gardening business with a few local Facebook ads, and soon business was “blooming”. My clients were primarily stay-at-home mums and working families – I was constantly saying to them, “Don’t feel guilty that you don’t have the time or inclination to do the garden – that’s what I’m here to help with … and I love it!” 

In Port Macquarie our client-base has changed, now supporting many retirees who may be unable to garden as much as they used to, or who are busy travelling. But the conversation goes the same, regarding the feelings of guilt around neglected gardens.

What do you and your team members each specialise in within the business?

Currently we are a team of five, with varied backgrounds, including weed management, bush regeneration and production horticulture. We have a very strong focus on providing balance between a client’s lifestyle and their garden.

In leading the team, my strengths lie in communicating with the homeowner to understand their needs and aspirations and to manage expectations, budgets and timelines. 

My passions lie in the creative – reworking and renovating existing gardens. Perfectionistic tendencies lead to strong attention to detail in everything we do. My philosophy is to do things right the first time! I love shaping and topiary, I’m a bit of a weed-geek, and I don’t miss much – in terms of pest, disease and potential issues.

We work as a team to get through our busy schedule, that includes a full range of garden maintenance services, including clean-ups and makeovers available to suit all needs and budgets. We all specialise in weed control and management. Our motto is “Never walk past a weed; especially a weed in seed!”

Describe the work involved with the project featured in the photographs.

This was a wonderful job that really got our creative juices flowing. Whilst the general brief was for a white-themed contemporary-cottage garden to marry in with the home design, my fabulous clients allowed freedom of expression. The creation came from a clean palette after removing the existing lawn and “saving” ailing plants (agapanthus and gardenia) to be reworked and reused in this and other future onsite garden projects. 

It became a labour of love, and I thrived in researching new planting options and the challenge of working with new materials. We welded steel edges to tie in with Merbau decking and posts and to create a strong framework and shape to the garden. Symmetry became a critical design element. Now 15 months later, the garden has matured, and a drip-irrigation system has ensured survival during the past two harsh summers. It is a garden that I am very proud to have been a part of creating.

What are some of your tips for jobs that should be done at this time of year?

Autumn is a great time of year to get out into the garden. The cooler days make it a joy to work outdoors, and autumn is a fabulous time to do catch-up jobs around the garden.

It’s time to reduce watering, kill off moss on pathways and heavily shaded or poorly drained areas of lawns and garden and clean up excess leaf litter, especially at the base of much-loved ornamental plants or citrus, to reduce fungal issues and where garden pests may be harbouring.

There are a lot of garden pests around at the moment – such as scale, mealy bug, looper caterpillars and sawfly larvae. Eco-friendly fertilisers and sprays are the way to go, but we endeavour to improve the overall health of the plant to become more resilient. This includes amending soils, aeration and drainage, conditioning with manure and compost, improving nutrition, reducing competition (i.e. grass, weeds) and then mulching for water retention and weed suppression. Fungal problems can be dealt with now, and sometimes prevention is better than the cure.

Tasks include targeting autumn and winter weeds in garden and turf, including spraying for Bindii and preparing for the autumn battle against armyworm and curl grub. 

Autumn is a time to finish planting spring bulbs, repotting plants and/or refreshing the potting mix in potted plants. Remember to use a really good potting mix. 

Whilst it is not the time to be doing heavy-pruning, maybe do some dead-heading of plants like hydrangea or “Bird of Paradise” and cut back deciduous vines as their leaves start to fall. 

It is the perfect time to start preparing to transplant any evergreen shrubs (such as camellia, azalea, gardenia) that may need to be relocated. Good preparation and not rushing the process is key, and whenever possible I prefer to do it in two – three stages.

Like most passionate gardeners, my own garden is eclectic and a constant work-in-progress. Ironically, I feel guilty that I spend more time in other people’s gardens than my own!

Where can we find out more info?

I can be contacted via email: kia@guiltfreegardens.com.au or mobile
0419 294 249 or via Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/guiltfreegardens/

I am happy to do consultations and can work with clients to better understand their own gardens. 

Thanks Kia.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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