JOAN AND IAN BALL FIRST CAME to The Falls — a graz­ing prop­erty in Long­wood, 148 kilo­me­tres north of Melbourne — in 2006. “It was a beau­ti­ful day and the cat­tle were sit­ting un­der the trees as we drove in, and as we ap­proached the house we kept think­ing how beau­ti­ful and peace­ful it was,” Joan re­calls. “We went in­side and the agent faced me to­wards the win­dow where a wa­ter­fall was cas­cad­ing down the hill. And ev­ery time we turned around there was some­thing mag­nif­i­cent out­side. We drove out of there ab­so­lutely over the moon and in love with the place.” It was the un­ex­pected ro­mance cre­ated by the wa­ter­fall, within the farm’s wider Ar­ca­dian ru­ral set­ting, that cap­ti­vated. The wa­ter flow­ing over a gran­ite es­carp­ment from high up in the Strath­bo­gie Ranges, out into Nine Mile Creek. The cou­ple bought the then 240-hectare prop­erty and, for Ian, who had re­cently sold his in­ter­est in a re­tire­ment busi­ness and long thought of own­ing a farm, it was a dream come true. Joan, how­ever, was ini­tially not so keen. “Ian al­ways used to wish like crazy that he owned a farm, and I used to say, ‘I don’t know why we want one!’ I went to look at The Falls kick­ing and scream­ing,” says Joan. Yet more than a decade on, both Ian and Joan’s love of The Falls has only deep­ened. And un­der their cus­to­di­an­ship, a lot has changed. They’ve in­creased the acreage to 1000 hectares, run­ning An­gus and Wagyu beef cat­tle, ex­tended the 1920s bun­ga­low-style homestead with wings at both ends, and the gar­den has nearly tripled in size; now cov­er­ing more than three and a half hectares. The early gar­den, se­cluded and shaded by spec­tac­u­lar ma­ture trees swept

around the homestead and fol­lowed the me­an­der­ing line of the creek. A glo­ri­ous Ginkgo biloba, Golden and Chi­nese elms, groves of macadamia and av­o­cado, and a vine­yard were planted by the pre­vi­ous own­ers decades be­fore. Out in the ad­ja­cent pad­dock a line of grand old Cork oaks was pro­vid­ing shade for stud bulls. Joan is a keen gar­dener. Ian, she de­scribes as, “a per­son who likes a project”. Be­tween them, un­der the guid­ance of Melbourne land­scape de­signer Robert Boyle, they have de­vel­oped the new gar­den on grand land­scape scale. Ini­tially Joan and Ian had cre­ated a na­tive gar­den along one bank of the creek, when they turned their gaze to the hill­side on the west flank of the homestead. They planted an es­paliered or­chard on the lower slope and had vi­sions of ter­races, Ital­ian Re­nais­sance style, in stone. They had al­ready en­gaged two lo­cal stone­ma­sons to build the walls, us­ing gran­ite from the prop­erty. It was then, Joan says, that they con­sulted Robert. “Robert has got this fab­u­lous sense of de­sign on a big scale, but to start with we asked him to de­sign a cage over the or­chard, as the birds were tak­ing most of the fruit off the trees and we needed it to be net­ted,” she says. Robert’s plans for the se­ries of ter­races in­cor­po­rated a long axis from top to bot­tom with stone stairs, per­gola, wa­ter cas­cades and ponds. Atop the hill the vine­yard was re­duced in size and the orig­i­nal drive­way that fol­lowed its bound­ary and then awk­wardly turned into the gar­den was re­aligned. “I said we’ll come through the en­trance pil­lars and fol­low the lower gra­di­ent,” Robert re­calls. “I then said the bulls have got to go, and this beau­ti­ful line of Cork oaks have to be part of the land­scape. Each one of those bulls was worth a con­sid­er­able amount of money!” Yet, the Balls em­braced the new plans with en­thu­si­asm and the prized bulls were promptly re­lo­cated. So a large or­na­men­tal lake was dug in the pad­dock be­tween the new drive­way and the Cork oaks and a rus­tic shin­gled pav­il­ion, a bit like an alpine hut, was built on its dis­tant shore. A se­cond axis runs di­ag­o­nally from the top ter­race along a flight of stairs, across the lake to the walled veg­etable and rose gar­den on the east shore, where Joan’s favourite, Pierre de Ron­sard roses, climb on a pil­lared walk. Ap­proach­ing the homestead th­ese days the views open up in all di­rec­tions. The pav­il­ion is sur­rounded by swathes of tall shim­mer­ing grass es, Misc an thu st rans mor­ri­son en sis

“Ev­ery time we turned around there was some­thing mag­nif­i­cent out­side.”

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