Mal Pugh began working on his garden about 20 years ago. He wanted a backyard that was low maintenance, but he also wanted to create something that was interesting to look at, and more importantly, that would make people laugh. As Don and Mal walked along the path in front of the house, Don thought that everything looked normal. Then he saw the legume patch (a garden featuring artificial legs stuck on a tree stump) and a sign saying ‘Bewilderie, Home of the Bewildered’, and he knew that it was going to be ‘one of those days’.

Mal’s backyard

The lawn in Mal’s backyard has long gone. In its place is an elaborate ‘work in progress’, composed of freestanding buildings, pathways and humorous displays. The yard is ‘staffed’ by 18 dummies, including Willy Nelson the shearer’s cook, Des Tination the railway porter, Turner the sentry and a group of characters who frequent the OK Coral, including Alan the border, Roger the lodger and Billy the kid. Clothes for the dummies were picked up at Op shops, in fact everything in the yard is made from recycled and second hand materials. Mal says that both he and Margery, his wife, have been married before, so in a sense they have even recycled themselves.

Mal’s alter ego is Mal Function, the bush or ‘shrub’ poet. Mal has self-published two anthologies of poetry as well as recording several CDs. He writes his poetry in the Bull Enclosure, his office in the house. Light hearted, satirical poems accompany and explain every display in the garden.

Inside the house

Not only does Margery support her husband in everything he does, but she also has her own interests. She is a very keen collector. Her frog collection numbered about 200 at the last count, although Mal says a couple of them have croaked. Inside the house Mal has built a display area for Margery’s collection of 4,000 teaspoons. The walls of the front room are lined with 60 jigsaw puzzles that Margery has completed. Margery has done so many jigsaws that they cannot all fit on the walls, so the extra ones will soon be used to cover the floor.

One room in the house is dedicated to Mal’s tongue in cheek inventions, which include a bizarre snake carrying case. It is 2m (6′) long and has a little grill at one end and a trapdoor at the other. Mal also makes novelty walking sticks. Some have casters on the bottom for joggers, while others have extension cords for power walkers.

Further information

Bewilderie is open by appointment.

To arrange a visit, contact Mal Pugh at 20 Kinross Street, Hampton East, VIC, or phone (03) 9555 2391.