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Queenscliffe Herald Article - June 2006

Saltmarsh Gardens

Jill Warneke
of the Swan Bay Environment Association

Not only has the new Department of Primary Industry (DPI) site in the Narrows given us a building of international stature, it has also added indigenous gardens of great significance to the area.

These are the “ SALTMARSH GARDENS” which surround the DPI building on the shores of Swan Bay.

Too often the term “saltmarsh” evokes images of low, dry, “salty-looking” and uninteresting shrubs. But there is so much more to them and the gardens around DPI have been carefully planned and landscaped not just to be ecologically appropriate but also attractive and informative. DPI intends to raise the image of saltmarsh!

With increasing environmental knowledge we realise that every type of vegetation (indeed every species of life) is vital to our ecology, and to lose too much of one type – grasslands, saltmarsh, ironbark forests, etc – can have a detrimental impact on the whole. As locals we are particularly aware of how important the saltmarsh areas are for the orange-bellied parrot. This is our famous visitor but there are many other species which live among or depend on the saltmarsh areas for their existence. Worms, crustaceans, crabs, frogs, lizards, butterflies, insects, birds, rodents (such as the water rat featured in last month’s article) all live on, bury under, feed on, or feed on something else that is feeding on or living on, the saltmarsh! We do not see them all but they are there in great numbers. So as an educational resource for school children the saltmarsh areas are worth their weight in gold (or at least in salt!).

DPI planned carefully when forming their Saltmarsh Gardens. Some of the issues which needed detailed attention were: soil type (indigenous plants are often soil-specific; also there is a danger of introducing weeds with imported soil); local provenance (using local seed so the genetic stock is maintained); plant choice (a range of appropriate plants is needed to provide a vibrant ecosystem) and a landscaping and layout plan which would link into the existing ecosytem of Swan Bay and also show visitors the subtle beauty and variation which exists in the saltmarsh.

The Saltmarsh Gardens are being maintained and enhanced by an environmental firm (EcoElements); DPI will prepare a brochure for visitors; and signage is being placed around the site. As the plants grow and merge with the Swan Bay ecosystem the gardens will become a well-known and important attraction. Much of Queenscliffe’s beauty comes from its distinct vegetation and the saltmarshes are an important part of that image.

Visitors are welcome to see the DPI Saltmarsh Gardens, including the ponds, by walking along the boardwalk constructed around the front of the building on the edge of Swan Bay. They are certainly worth a look. So is the view!

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