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Sensory Garden Blooms

Thousands of specially selected plants and shrubs are currently being planted in a special area at Balcombe Heights Estate in Baulkham Hills to create a sensory garden for the community.

The Balcombe Heights Sensory Garden has been a labour of love for Connie Keith on the estate’s governing committee who chased Federal and State Government Grants to obtain grants to make the dream blossom.

The soil turning ceremony on the grassed area near Woodbury Autism Education and Research on April 11th saw Federal Member Mitchell Alex Hawke join State MP for Castle Hill Mark Hodges and Hills Shire Mayor Peter Gangemi for the official soil turning by Connie Keith and Mici Beer from the Balcombe Heights Estate management committee.

Balcombe Heights Sensory Garden Sod Turn02760 Sensory Garden Blooms
Mayor peter gangemi, connie keith, mark hodges mp and mici beer

A smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country conducted by Peter Williams from Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre.

Connie Keith thanked landscaper Tig Crowley for coming up with the concept plans and working pro bono for two years during COVID. She also thanked Andrew Hewitt Ryde TAFE who was consulted about the sensory garden and Michael Edgar, General Manager with Hills Shire Council.

Tig Crowley said: “The project is about the community and also creating social and ecological awareness. It will be an enormous plus to the (Balcombe Heights) Estate.”

He said a huge variety of plants will be used to create the sensory garden with a mix of native and exotics. The garden will include all-ability walking paths, Indigenous symbols, and something for all senses, sound, smell, sight, and touch and should be completed by the end of August.

“This is an amazing venue,” he said. The land where Balcombe Heights Estate is now was a former farm before being bought and turned into an orphanage and school by the Freemasons in November 1922 for children of Masons who had lost their lives serving their country in World War I. The land was bought by council in 1977 for use by the community.

Connie Keith said the original plants on this estate were planted with advice from Sydney Botanic Garden. She said talks about a community garden area started in 2019 to best utilise the ground and the idea for a sensory garden came to bloom because the Estate contained so many services with clients who would benefit from such a space.

Sensory Garden Connie Andrew And Tig Copy Sensory Garden Blooms
Andrew hewitt and tig crowe with connie keith in front of plans for the sensory garden

In 2022 a Federal Government Federal Government grant provided $20,000 towards a tree lined path to a war memorial at Balcombe Heights and a bigger grant of $627,464 from the State Government’s Western Sydney Infrastructure Grants Program has enabled the blossoming idea to flower, she said.

Hills Shire Mayor Peter Gangemi thanked Connie for her “dedication and passion” to make the garden a reality.

“It’s been a long road to get here,” he said. “We are very excited for what this garden will bring to the community,” he said. “We have made the site all about the community … this garden will really take the site to the next level.”

Andrew Hewitt Ryde TAFE said: “It’s a good indication of how plants can have an impact on everyone. Through consultation and a good design process you guarantee to meet the needs of the public.”

Plantings will include Japanese maple, dwarf Sydney Red Gum, palms, banksia, lemon myrtle, flowering gums, figs, frangipani, fruit trees, tibouchina and Lilly Pilly, saltbush, lilies, sage, kangaroo paw and herbs.

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