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 red­cow­

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’.

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