IAN AND JOAN BALL WERE CAPTIVATED BY THIS GRAZING PROPERTY IN NORTHERN VICTORIA AND HAVE SPENT THE PAST DECADE EXPANDING ITS GARDEN.
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.”