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.