Why I Built A Garden During My HSC… Well… One of the most stressful periods in the life of an Australian student is undoubtedly the exams leading up to their ATAR. These exams, whether it’s the HSC, VCE, QCE, WACE, NTCE, TCE, or an Australian Capital Territory Year 12 Certificate, are notorious for creating high-pressure environments in pursuit of a successful future. While it’s true that your ATAR may not hold much significance beyond university admissions, the intense stress placed on teenagers and young adults is undeniable. Every year, new statistics emerge, highlighting the link between these exams and rising rates of depression and anxiety.

Speaking from my own experience, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, along with other learning-related challenges, which made the prospect of completing my HSC seem unattainable. Even when I did reach this milestone, I sometimes found myself wishing I hadn’t.

I vividly recall staring at the daunting piles of study materials, feeling overwhelmed and self-critical. It seemed as though every aspect of my life had to revolve around studying, and when it didn’t, I turned my frustration inward.

In order to better manage the overwhelming stress, I made it my mission to develop new coping strategies to safeguard my mental health during this challenging period.

I eventually found solace in gardening, a hobby I’ve continued even after my HSC.


Our backyard had been neglected for years, overrun by weeds and struggling plants. I decided to take on the formidable task of reviving this vast space. With limited funds and no prior gardening experience, my support worker and I embarked on weekly trips to Bunnings to kickstart my gardening journey.

Our backyard was a haven for various bird species, including two cockatoos, two Lorikeets, three magpies, four Indian myna birds, and a butcher bird. This inspired me to research plants that would attract these feathered friends. 

Initially, my trips to the store involved purchasing the most affordable potting mix and soil (usually priced at 3-4 dollars per bag), budget-friendly terracotta pots and plates (1-3 dollars), and some seeds (4-5 dollars).

As my garden took shape, I began exploring Australian native plants, often purchasing clearance plants to save on costs. My favourite native flower is the Boronia, known for its delightful scent and striking magenta colour. I also rescued Christmas bushes, Castilemon, and Kangaroo paws.

While I’ve invested a considerable amount in my garden, I’ve also discovered the charm of two-dollar bright flowers and discounted plants, as well as acquiring succulent cuttings and second-hand equipment to keep expenses in check.

My vegetable patch is flourishing with pumpkins, chilies, snow peas, and tomatoes, which should be ready for consumption soon. Just this morning, my brother and I planted some lilly pillies, a native fruit he’d been urging me to get, and I managed to find a tree for only $10.

Despite my garden sometimes serving as a procrastination tool, at least the HSC is behind me for now, so I don’t have much left to procrastinate about at the moment.

– Veronika Miller

A List Ambassador


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