Matthew PopplewellCountry cottage gardens unfold beneath kookaburra wings

Living within a Matty Hayden lusty blow of Noosa, I came to the region expecting the formal garden to dominate, with an immaculate lawn with the neatly trimmed Murraya paniculata weaving around the bean-shaped pool, oozing out its relentless perfume. What I didn’t expect were quite so many lost oases that had reinvented the words “cottage garden”. For the way through the woods not only led you to the relentless cackle of the kookaburra but I found out to my immense pleasure, a number of iconic gardens that had simply been carved out through the woods. You would never find them, of course, for looking and I only did from word of mouth but what I did find was two particular gardens that didn’t so much have one story, but chapters upon chapters of planting evolution. Here were two such examples:

A step back in Hinterland times

Set in a backdrop of the picturesque natural surroundings of the Queensland hinterland, Yandina Station has lost none of its charm and rustic demeanour since its establishment back in 1853. Arriving from a British ship, the Skyring family created a head cattle station on the site to which it served before turning into a dairy farm at the turn of the 20th century. It then served as a dairy and beef cattle farm for 50 years before becoming the present day stud.

Its gardens subtly retain its cottage garden feel and its British roots, with a croquet lawn and pleasantly scented rose gardens weaving their way through the lichen pattered fencing. Serving as a function venue, it has small courtyard of herbs and a small smattering of veggies that supplement the farming theme retained by the surrounding cob-webbed full barns.

The gardens have a tipple of roses that defy the humidity of the region and spring out black-spot free and vibrant. The staghorn fern, Platycerium superbum (what a great name for a plant that has no backside and a horny looking front!!) is latching on tight to the fig. The Plumbago capensis is stretching out over the lavender as if replacing its lost but not forgotten blue.

Through an evolution of farming and restoration the station, which covers over 200 acres, is still a working cattle farm with the homestead now lovingly restored as a function venue.

A little piece of paradise at Stringybark Cottage

Lost amongst coloured tropical foliage, bold headed beehive gingers, Costus and Heliconia, and under the scented air from the stringy bark eucalyptus, there is a continued grooming project that has been some 20 years in creation at Stringybark Cottage in Verrierdale, Queensland. This hidden treasure created from a clearing of trees, a passion for plants and the ever challenging vagaries of nature have produced a dreamy garden of mesmeric colour and unfolding mystery.

Much of what listens to the relentless chatter of the oriole and cockatoo has long since passed on as nature’s hold on conditions remains strong. The tall surrounding gums restrict light. Frequent cold winter nights restrict some tropical plants succeeding and the soil’s acidity is a battle to overcome.

To name but a few wonders I embraced were: the beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabile); a Mussaenda in full flower; Eucalyptus macrorhyncha, the red stringy bark tree; and the bat plant or Tacca integriflia.

In a garden where shade and frequent dampness dwells, it has been the lawn that has worn more head scratching nails than most dilemmas met in the immense acreage.

The owners are trialling a new lawn that has produced superb results. In using Zoisya matrella, they have found a contrasting fine leaf variety which is described as tough in both the damp and dry. It does need sun, and with that, produces a lovely apple green colour. The other perk is it is only needing to be mowed occasionally and if mowing isn’t your thing then you can also leave it to grow naturally up trunks and it still looks good.

I had found a new lawn at Stringybark Cottage. I had found paradise at Stringybark Cottage.

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