Patch in Print

March 08th, 2018
Patch in Print
Tucked away in Mount Barker Springs is a piece of paradise cultivated by South Australia’s most popular gardener Sophie Thomson.

She calls her garden Sophie’s Patch, and Sophie’s latest book shares the name with her self-realised vision.

Six and a half years ago, Sophie and her husband Richard bought the property that was to become Sophie’s Patch with the intention of turning it into a fully functional orchard and veggie garden cultivated using sustainable principles.

They wasted no time setting the groundwork.

“A week into buying the property we put the orchard down because it needs time to establish,” Sophie said.

“The veggie patch came after because you get much quicker results.

“The other thing we did early on was plant trees for wind breaks.”
Though Sophie’s Patch is known nationwide, she does not look like completing the garden any time soon.

“For years I’ve been saying ‘We just need to fill it up over here or tidy this and then it’s finished’, she said.

“But I don’t know if a garden is ever actually finished.

“Everything grows at different rates.

“And as the trees have grown we’re finally getting more shade so there’s different plants to grow underneath them as well.”

Sophie said her favourite vegetable at the moment is the New Guinea bean – which, surprisingly, is neither a bean nor is it from New Guinea.

“It’s hard asking what my favourite plants are though. That’s a bit like asking which child is my favourite.”

Over the years Sophie has experimented with all manner of weird and wonderful plants including the 25 varieties of pumpkin she cultivated last year.

“Most people don’t even know that many existed!” Sophie said.

“There’s a lot here that people haven’t seen before.

“Right now I’m particularly interested in a special type of vegetable called caigua.

“I’d never heard of it and thought I should at least give it a go.”

In her new book, Sophie is not afraid to show the difficulties of gardening and that failure need not be discouraging.

“Many are delighted to come in and see that it’s not perfect.

“If you’re like me, seeing a perfect garden can be intimidating.”

Translating the beauty of Sophie’s garden to still images has been the enviable job of photographer Luke Simon.

“I sort of pinch myself when I’m up there,” he said.

“It doesn’t feel like work.

“There’s always something like broccoli or asparagus to grab and have a munch on while you’re working.

Luke has worked with Sophie since her garden was little more than a vision and a cow paddock.

“The amount of insects and butterflies and life you see in that garden is really satisfying,” he said.

“And it’s been wonderful to watch not only her garden grow, but also her family.”

“There’s a big focus for Sophie – and I reckon it would be great if more people did this – on making sure her kids know where their food comes from.”

If you are curious about what the garden looks like in the flesh, Sophie’s Patch will once again be open to the public over the Easter long weekend.

Host of Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis, will be there on the Saturday.

And you can expect plenty of activities including cooking demonstrations, speakers, and heaps to see and do for kids and gardening aficionados alike.

Sophie estimates that they have had 15,000 visitors to her garden over the last four years.

“People are very respectful,” she said.

“I do love having people come here because then they often contact me down the track and say ‘I tried growing that New Guinea bean, how do I cook it?’

“We love that kind of feedback and it’s touching to think that I might inspire people to try something different.”

Sophie’s book Sophie’s Patch is being launched in a sold out event at the Matilda Bookshop in Stirling on March 19.

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