Geoff Kenna has poured decades of hard work and horticultural expertise into his garden on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

Story + Photos Therese Hall

In his job as the senior horticulturalist at Alice Springs Desert Park, Geoff Kenna endeavours to collect and grow samples of every plant native to Central Australia. It’s an exhaustive process, involving remote field trips, identification, propagation and cataloguing. “It’s pretty full-on,” Geoff says. 

But his soil-bound job doesn’t diminish Geoff’s love of home gardening. After work, and on weekends, he picks up his trowel and shovel, and gets stuck into his one-hectare backyard on the outskirts of Alice Springs. Working tirelessly over the past 20 years, Geoff has created an understated desert garden alive with native birds. With the help of his wife Jenny, he has scraped a beautiful habitat out of the red dirt, where native trees thrive and wildflowers bloom. “It’s hard to be a gardener in Alice Springs,” he says. “In other places you can put something in the ground and it’ll just grow. But here you’ve only got to get a blocked [irrigation] dripper and it’s the end of that plant.” 

The Kennas’ block is in the suburb of Ilparpa, sandwiched between the West MacDonnell Ranges and vast claypans. It appealed to Geoff because of its size – not too big and not too small – and its access to town water. “Water is a problem around Alice,” he says. “Once you get outside this subdivision there’s no town water and you have to rely on bores that don’t get a lot of water out of them.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #124

Outback Magazine: April/May 2019