Country Style - - IN THE GARDEN -

Mount Irvine, 11 kilo­me­tres down a tree-flanked road from Mount Wil­son, is a quiet and pic­turesque pocket of the Blue Moun­tains. Its rain­for­est, rich soils and se­cluded lo­ca­tion make it the per­fect re­treat for land­scape de­signer and au­thor Michael Bates (left and be­low). He’s owned his prop­erty, Talla­wong, for 17 years, and reg­u­larly heads to the hills to spend time pot­ter­ing in his moun­tain gar­den. “Do­ing phys­i­cal work in the gar­den — planting, prun­ing, build­ing, mak­ing art — helps me re­lax,” he says. “It’s very im­por­tant to me to have this kind of respite in my life.” Michael loves the Mount Wil­son area and the sense of com­mu­nity. “Peo­ple move to the moun­tains for the peace, but the strong, close-knit com­mu­nity re­ally takes it to the next level,” he ex­plains. “Be­cause so many of the res­i­dents in the area are keen gar­den­ers, there’s plenty of shared ground.” The gar­den is a fam­ily affair. It’s a place where Michael can test grand ideas — like cre­at­ing a land­form (be­low) in­spired by Charles Jencks’s Gar­den of Cos­mic Spec­u­la­tion in Scot­land — and his wife, Sophia, can in­dulge in her love of peren­ni­als and bulbs. “She’s all about flow­ers!” Af­ter cre­at­ing gar­dens for clients all week, Michael’s moun­tain re­treat is ul­ti­mately a place of rest. “There’s noth­ing like the vir­tu­ous re­lax­ation coming from a full day of gar­den­ing. There’s great sat­is­fac­tion in it — know­ing that you’ve made the world a bet­ter and more beau­ti­ful place.” (02) 9818 6666; bates­land­scape.com.au

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