Bob ONeill

Today’s guest Bob ONeill was fortunate that he was able to retire early, having purchased an existing eight acre orchard.  Although he had no experience in horticulture his inclination was to gradually develop the block into a garden … so he did.  Over the following decade Bob turned the orchard into an award winning garden recognised worldwide. His garden “Katandra”, won the ‘Garden Of The Year Award’ and has been featured in prestigious books and magazines internationally.

Later he downsized to a home on a one acre lot in the south east suburbs of Melbourne. And there he has done it again. He has developed a second brilliant garden of native Australian plants, starting construction in his seventies.  He may well be the only person who has had two separate gardens be part of the ‘Open Garden Scheme’.

In this broad ranging discussion we talk about his philosophy of how to plan and develop a garden that suits the plants as well as the gardener. It is a different way of looking at the whole concept, and one that makes perfect sense. The proof is his present garden which looks mature, and is lush and thriving although it has only been planted over the last four or five years.

Bob’s particular interest is the Australian native plant named a ‘Correa’ which has dozens of variations and in which he finds endless interest.

If all this sounds a bit ‘out of your league’ do not be dismayed, we spend a lot of the interview discussing how a new gardener can develop a garden, how to select the most appropriate plants to suit the location and conditions, and a most important piece of advice … don’t rush.

Most of us don’t have the background or knowledge to know how to start the process, and here Bob recommends we join the Australian Native Plants Society which has branches throughout the suburbs. The Society can be found at  He also recommends that people offer to volunteer at one of the public gardens, because you will come in contact with a community who are knowledgeable and generous with their support.

Bob treated me to a walk around his incredible property, pointing out individual plants and talking about the birds, lizards and frogs that add to the gardening experience. And finally, he heartily recommends gardening as a way of keeping fit and well, gainfully occupied, and a way of becoming involved with an excellent community of like minded people.

If you have questions or would like to contact Bob, email me at and I will immediately pass on your message. And please don’t forget to leave a comment in the ‘reply box’ below and to press share at the foot of the page because it helps to spread the word about gardening and the Retired Excited podcast.

Peace, health and happiness,


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