Some areas tumble with roses, clematis and wisteria while others, shaded by trees, are filled with woodland treasures.
When another enclosed garden room was developed, it seemed natural to continue the religious analogy so the next garden became the Abbess’s Garden. For the tall hedging throughout, Ali has used hornbeam and beech, two plants not commonly used in Australian but popular in European gardens. “These hedges are deciduous and make a feature in autumn and winter as they develop autumn foliage colour,” explains Ali. “Beech holds its brown leaves through winter, which is also interesting. It is late to re-leaf in spring but when it does, during mid October here, the fresh spring foliage is spectacular.” One of the challenges Ali faced when he decided to use these cool-climate deciduous trees as hedging was to get their spacing right. “I thought they’d be slow so I put them about 20cm apart in a double row but they’ve done so well I could have just planted a single row,” he explains. While the garden at Red Cow Farm has many plants, roses have stolen Ali’s heart. He has more than 800 different roses and loves them all. When he was asked recently to nominate his six favourites, he found it hard to even narrow it down to just 60. Ali admits to having a plant addiction and is driven to collect more species and varieties. However, he doesn’t want the garden to become a collector’s garden. “A naturalistic setting is important,” he says. As well as growing lots of different roses, he also grows many woodland plants, including hosta, rodgersia and massed candelabra primula. “Many annuals and perennials self-seed and I love the way seedlings just pop up where they want to grow.” One self-seeder that has found its way into many areas is Centranthus ruber, or Kiss Me Quick, an old-fashioned cottage plant with spires of red, pink or white flowers. As the garden began to mature, Ali and Wayne made the decision to open it to visitors. These early openings were restricted to set weekends in spring and autumn but, by the early 2000s, they decided to open more regularly. Today the garden opens daily from early September until late May. Having a garden that’s open daily is not easy, as visitors expect it to always look good with lots of flowers. To add to the visitor experience and to share their love of plants, Ali and Wayne opened a small nursery on site selling plants propagated from the garden and a shop that stocks honey from the garden’s hives as well as garden gifts and utensils. Red Cow Farm, 7480 Illawarra Highway, Sutton Forest, NSW. Open daily from September 18, 2018, until late May 2019 from 10am–4pm. Entry is $10 (adults), $8 (seniors), $4 (children 4–14 years). The garden is also used for photography and can be hired for events. Visit redcowfarm.com.au
The garden is now more than 20 years old and many of the trees have reached maturity, providing shelter for shade-loving plants. Featured trees inlcude Zelkova serrata, Taxodium distichum and Gleditsia ‘Sunburst’.