Goonellabah residents Helen and Bob Barnes in one of the many sections of their beautiful garden.
Goonellabah residents Helen and Bob Barnes in one of the many sections of their beautiful garden. Jacklyn Wagner

Garden a real crowd pleaser

HELEN and Bob Barnes are used to finding strangers in their garden.

Not that there's anything weird about it - it's just that their garden tends to draw people in.

In fact, so much so, the Goonellabah couple are opening their master work to the public for the first time as part of a Rotary charity fundraiser.

This weekend their garden on the corner of Sunrise Cr and Ballina Rd will come alive to the strains of live classical string music and refreshments as they share their sanctuary with the public.

"We've often had people wander through unannounced, they'll ask us if this is some sort of park and who does all the work," Bob said.

That said, the garden has been a 33-year project which has become the cornerstone of the Barneses' retirement.

"When you're out in the garden, everyone leaves you alone - it's great for the soul and it's great therapy," he said.

After countless requests, Bob and Helen decided to open their garden while looking for fundraising ideas for the Rotary Golf Day's key recipients: The Lismore PCYC, Our House, the Mental Health Association of NSW and the Summerland Early Intervention Program.

"We're synching it with Rotary Golf Day so the total proceeds will go to the same four charities," said Bob.

The magnificent garden is spread over the equivalent of five full house blocks opposite Pinevale Villas Retirement Village and has several themed sections including Japanese, English, Italian (Little Tuscany) and a rainforest grove.

Visitors will get to hear all of Bob and Helen's gardening secrets with a string trio on Saturday and a jazz duo on Sunday.

"Everyone who comes through the gate gets coffee, that's in the price," said Helen.

"I'd encourage people to sit and chat and enjoy the music. I sit on every chair - it's very peaceful and I love it. I'm not a traveller but I'm happy to potter around home."



  1. Enjoy the garden
  2. Prune regularly
  3. Create little habitats - we have a lot of lizards and frogs
  4. The right plants for the right area
  5. Mow the lawn long
  6. Only water when it needs a good soaking
  7. Don't overcrowd
  8. Use slow-release organic fertiliser
  9. Don't be afraid of a few bugs in the garden - that is healthy at times
  10. Use the element of surprise

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