Karen HallA difficult decision – selling Wychwood

If only I had a dollar for every time someone had said to me in the past few years – “Oh my, you’ll never be able to leave this place!” Their words were hardly surprising – we have created a small garden oasis of huge borders, a heritage orchard, productive potager, a warm, comfy home, with a trout stream as a back boundary etc – all nestled within the rolling hills of the Meander Valley in northern Tasmania. It is, quite literally, paradise, and for many years we couldn’t even contemplate a time when we might be tempted to move on.

Virtually every waking moment of the past 21 years has been spent pouring our heart and soul into this place – and creating a garden that is a true reflection of us. Wychwood has graced the pages of Country Style, House and Garden and even the most well-known Japanese garden magazine, it has featured in countless garden books and we have found our 15 minutes of fame on TV via The Garden Gurus and Better Homes and Gardens. Our visitors have included ex-Prime Ministers, gardening celebrities and academy award winning actresses and their partners, but perhaps more importantly, thousands of garden lovers from home and abroad. We have hosted Heritage Apple Tastings, fashion parades, art exhibitions, story-telling and food festivals, basket making workshops and the occasional wedding.

Our children Holly and Louis (now teenagers) have only ever known this place as their home and every inch of it is familiar to them. Their tiny handprints are embedded in concrete and their playhouse (now refurbished) dominates the garden.

So it may surprise some of you to hear that we are planning to move on. Why? How on earth could we? Surely the thought of potentially passing on our creation to total strangers fills us with dread? Anyone who has created a garden knows the mixture of feelings we are experiencing.

Well…….life changes. It’s a little unclear to me when the first little seed of discontent was sown, and certainly our decision is a lot more about where we are metaphorically than in a physical sense. There wasn’t any one particular moment that changed us from loving every minute spent in the garden to wondering if we could put our energies elsewhere.

Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with an inherited heart condition – a condition that in the past 7 years has taken my sister at the age of 33 and contributed to my brother’s death at the age of 42. It required me to be transformed into a bionic woman: I now sport an ICD – an implantable cardiovascular defibrillator, which is a little like a pacemaker but with the ability to re-start a stopped heart with an electric shock. I do know this has had a profound affect on me and on us. Anyone one of you who have had a similar experience knows where I am coming from on that score. Heart disease is no joke and being told you have it takes you somewhere you cannot come back from. Eventually, slowly, you come to accept it, but you are not the same.

We have also filled our allotted space. There is no longer any scope to create new beds, to plant more trees or to build another shelter. The creating is over, now we are maintaining, and although I have always said I adore weeding – and (bizarrely) I do– a little bit of us both is slightly frustrated that we have reached the pinnacle of our capabilities here. We are both very creative people and we are now wondering what it is we can do next, acutely aware that life is precious and time limited, and that we are young enough and perhaps still stupid enough to take on a new adventure.

Peter has rediscovered his love of photography and a whole new world has opened up to him. Given the chance, he wants to spend hours behind his camera lens and finding ways to use the hundreds of exquisite shots he now has in his library (anyone interested can see his work www.stigcooper.photomerchant.net ).

And our children are children no more. Days spent paddling in the creek, spotting thistles in the lawn and playing hide and seek are well and truly over, and now the focus has shifted to college, love lives and band practice. Although they still adore this place, they seem to choose less and less time to spend in it, and that’s the way it should be as they grow up.

None of these reasons in isolation are big enough to make our decision necessary, but combined – with a few other things too boring to mention – were enough to sow the seed of an idea in our minds, and that seed has been slowly germinating over the past year or so to a point that we knew the time had come.

I know all of you as gardeners fear the moment that your piece of paradise becomes someone else’s and for good reason. We should fear that too, but in many ways, we know it is time to pass it on to someone who will bring with them a new eye, and thoughts and plans of their own. Yes, it is sad, but it is also exciting.

Anyhow, this is just the start of a journey. The absolute decision to sell Wychwood was only made a week ago, and we had been going to sit on it for a little while to get used to the idea. That all changed when our friend Leo Schofield heard about it via the Tasmanian grapevine and decided to announce it in Hobart’s newspaper, The Mercury. So it’s real now and the emails and facebook have been running hot.

Stay tuned, fellow gardeners, if you don’t mind I will share with you the coming weeks and months as we learn to live with the idea that our time here at Wychwood is coming to an end.


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Karen Hall

About Karen Hall

Karen runs Wychwood Gardens and Nursery in northern Tasmania with her partner, Peter Cooper and is Tasmanian Chair of Open Gardens Australia. Mole Creek, Tasmania

21 thoughts on “A difficult decision – selling Wychwood

  1. Wow, Karen.

    Your garden is one of the most stunning I’ve ever photographed or written about, not least with the stunning backdrop of the Cradle Mountain range you have there. But I understand what you mean about “maintaining” – I’d reached that point in my garden, and was just marking time until we could move (or buy extra land as we did!).

    I’m also sure that the moment you find your new place, wherever it is, whatever size it may be (but I bet there will be plenty of room for planting!) you will fall in love with the process all over again!

    In any case, best wishes on your new adventure, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds (perhaps a “From Scratch” blog like mine, somewhere in Tassie..?)!

    • Thanks Helen – we remember your visit fondly! Thanks so much for your encouraging words – we will keep you posted. xxx

  2. What a truly amazing garden Karen. I feel for you with the health condition that you have. But you are obviously such talented people – put hope into your lives and start again. Really creative people can’t stop – there is an urgency to keep the creative juices flowing. Maybe just try something smaller that will satisfy your great talent, but be more manageable.
    My very best wishes for a quick and good sale, albeit a sad one. Karma will show that it will be for the best in the long term.

    • Thanks so much Alison – we too are hoping for a quick sale as once we’ve made a decision, we like to move ahead with it. This one might be out of our control to a certain extent though – so fingers crossed. x

  3. Karen and Peter, I loved visiting your garden and rate it as one of my worldwide favourites. I feel privileged reading your honest and thorough explanation about your decision to sell, to help your fans understand the process. It is one that some of us have yet to face. I started out thinking, as everyone would, “How could they?” and ended up being filled with admiration for your energy for a new adventure. Can’t wait to see your next garden…do keep us posted.

    • Thanks Helen – I’m so happy you enjoyed our garden so much. It has brought us so much pleasure over the years, that it is nice to know it has a special place in other peoples hearts as well. Quite what our new adventure will be is anyones guess at this stage. We’ll keep you posted. x

  4. I haven’t even been there yet! I guess it goes to show that you can’t keep putting things off…life is short and its in the moment that you realise that you shouldn’t waste it. You have created something beautiful, tactile and completely yours. It will be hard to sell it and see what someone else does with it but you will give yourself a chance to be totally creative all over again and sometimes that is more important. Bon chance with whatever you want to do in the future and wherever you go. Hopefully you won’t leave Tasmania as we need people like you both here. I hope that whoever takes over the property keeps it open to the public as I really wanted to visit you guys and see your master craftsmanship…oh well…I just got my own lesson in the value of doing didn’t I?

    • We certainly have no plans to leave Tasmania, it is too special a place. As these things take time I hope you can make it to Mole Creek to visit us once we re-open for Spring. On the first weekend in November (coinciding with the Deloriane Craft Fair) we are holding our annual Art in the Garden exhibition for Open Gardens Australia – this year featuring work by incredible Tasmanian duo Folko Kooper and Maureen Craig of Mangalore. Their work is well known Australia-wide and we are totally thrilled to be hosting this event. Maybe you could come then? Make sure you grab accommodation very soon though as the Meander Valley fills up very quickly that weekend. Thanks so much for your kind words. x

  5. An incredible garden! I see gardens as I see making art ,it is really about the process-best wishes for your new start.X

    • Thankyou! We have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and are itching to start again – not sure where and what, but keen nonetheless. x

  6. I can’t imagine what it must be like to relinquish what has been such an intrinsic part of your life, Karen! I suppose it’s somewhere between heart wrenching and exciting.
    Any hints at what is next for you and Peter? A bigger block, a smaller block? I look forward to following your change.

    • Thanks James – if you had asekd us a couple of years ago how hard it would be, we would have said terribly. But now….well, it just feels right. Obviously it will be a wrench – and I think we don’t realise just how much of one at this stage – but that isn’t enough of a reason to stay. As to what our next project will be – well we’ll keep you posted. Thanks again. x

  7. My elderly mother and I visited your gardens a couple of years ago whilst I was home on holidays. It was a beautiful experience and I marvelled at your creativity and energy in presenting such a glorious place. Around every corner there was something more to gasp and wonder at. Thankyou for sharing your gift with us, the public. But your health is precious and must be cared for. I hope that you are able to find the ‘right’ people to take over your Wychwood and you can move on to something that will be equally as alluring & bewitching for your creative abilities.

    • I’m so pleased that you and your mother enjoyed your visit. It has been our pleasure to share it with everyone – we have met some incredible people and completely enjoyed seeing how our garden touched many people. I feel certain we will find the ‘right’ place, and we are both very excited about starting a new journey together. I love your words ‘alluring’ and ‘bewitching’ – there will be just the place out there for us. x

  8. There is a season to everything as you would know, Karen, and your time to move is as natural an occurrence as the cycle of time. Your health situation notwithstanding, life lets us know when it’s time to change and head in another direction. Your amazing creativity and industry making this beautiful place has brought pleasure to so many , I am sure you will do more of this in your next life. Best wishes. Look forward to hearing your plans.

  9. Hi Julie – wise words! Another very clever woman (she’ll know who she is) said to me when she heard of our decision – ‘the day you feel that you couldn’t bear anything to change is the very day you should start planning to change something’. How smart is that? Thanks so much for your encouragement. x

  10. I do like that wisdom about change …. have recently lost a job that I thought was perfect in every way and didn’t want any of it to change, and whammo, it did.
    I’ll be better prepared from now on.

  11. Ah Karen,
    It has been such a pleasure taking my tour groups to your special piece of paradise, my absolute favourite garden. I am so lucky to have been there as often as I have, enjoying your cakes and elderberry cordial, and of course, the garden in its stunning setting. Good luck with the sale and look after your health, and I will treasure my memories of visiting Wychwood.
    I know your new home will present a fresh canvas for you and Peter to satisfy your creativity, and I wish you a wonderful time finding that very place! I just hope its on my tour trail…mmmm.

  12. Thanks so much Libby, it has been such a pleasure to have welcomed you – meeting people like you have been the absolute highlight of creating this place. Hope we cross paths again. x

  13. What a beautiful garden, Karen. It would be so heartbreaking to work so long on something and have to leave for any reason. I hope that whoever takes it on will have the same flair and sensitivity to the landscape you have created.

    • I’m sure they will Stu, but I also hope they put their own stamp on it and make it truly theirs. I know I would in a similar situation. Wychwood as it stands now is a true reflection of Peter and I, I hope that one day it will reflect someone else.

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