Gardens of WA: Gardening when gravity is against you may not be an all-downhill battle, says Troy Wilshusen

Some certainties in life we just can’t get around. According to Benjamin Franklin, it’s death and taxes, but here’s another that is equally inflexible: gravity. What goes up must come down, whether it’s rain, spacecraft or Twitter stocks.

In the garden, gravity is usually a good thing. It’s convenient that our plants, once planted, stay put. Unless you happen to be gardening on the side of a hill, that is, in which case all bets are off.

When gardening on a slope you’ll recognise the power of gravity and its unwelcome contributions to your slumping soils, exposed roots and sore knees. Troy Wilshusen knows these struggles well.

His garden is set into the side of a rolling hill in the South West. With views overlooking a grassy valley, it’s a picturesque place … with hidden challenges.

“In winter this spot would flood, and our neighbour’s garden would be soaking wet,” Troy tells me, as we walk through his orchard of stone fruit.

Troy Wilshusen in his Balingup garden. (Gardens of WA, The Sunday Times) Danella Bevis
Camera IconTroy Wilshusen in his Balingup garden. (Gardens of WA, The Sunday Times) Danella Bevis Credit: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

Once steeply sloping and plagued by rainfall run-off, Troy’s garden now comprises a series of terraces, cut into the hillside and retained with bricks made from rammed earth.

Troy’s terraces were built out of necessity, and not just to stop the run-off. In 2016, a month after he’d moved in, a motorbike accident left him in a metal frame for over a year. Inspired to create a space that would be easy on his healing knees, Troy’s terracing began. But he didn’t stop there.

The terraces provided the framework for a garden that has, over the past three years, become home to all of Troy’s treasures and projects.

From moonflowers, snail vines and African horned cucumbers that climb up archways of reo mesh, to sculptures made from salvaged farm machinery, this garden is simultaneously a workshop, gallery and museum.

At one end, an old ocean buoy hangs from a sturdy wooden trellis. “I found it down on the beach,” Troy recalls. “I hung it there to dry out but it’s going to go somewhere else someday.”

Beside the buoy are three concrete cisterns covered in bright green lichen. “I’m going to make a water feature out of these,” he says.


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