Artist Michael McWilliams has created a special slice of paradise at his property in northern Tasmania
Michael McWilliams shares his little slice of paradise
The Jolly Farmer is an oasis hidden in the heart of Perth, in northern Tasmania. An intriguing garden of dry-climate plants fronts the street and reveals nothing of the planting behind the house. Stepping through the entrance from the street into the garden is an experience. Visitors are bowled over by the sight of deep plant-filled garden beds and green lawns that flow out among the trees. It’s a garden that demands a leisurely stroll.
The house dates to 1826, when it was a coaching inn on what must have been a busy road between Longford and Launceston and a watering hole for the local farmers and graziers.
Now, the street is a dead end and the once-busy inn is a private home. Its time as an inn came to an end when the railway line severed the street and also provided an alternative transport route. The last innkeeper was Anne Russell, who died in 1880.
The Georgian-style cottage was built by Allan Mackinnon, who lived not at the inn but at the property known as Dalness at Evandale. The Jolly Farmer was enlarged in 1830 when two wings were added to the cottage.
In the mid-19th-century, it was described as a 13-room brick house with a four-stall brick stable, a six-stall weatherboard stable, a shed and a four-room weatherboard cottage on 2.8ha. The old brick stable remains.
The Bird family remodelled the old inn, turning it into a home where the family lived for 80 years. In the 1970s and ’80s, Thomas and Marjorie Boersma and their family lived at the Jolly Farmer. By this time the property had shrunk to less than 1ha. It had no garden but was surrounded by five old trees: a walnut growing near the back of the house, an old plum, an ash and two young sycamores.
For the past 28 years, the Jolly Farmer has been the home of keen gardeners Michael McWilliams and partner Robert Henley. McWilliams, an acclaimed painter, also owns an antique shop and gallery at nearby Longford. They share the house with a tribe of five snuffling pugs and the garden with assorted fowl.
GREEN PLUS FLOWERS
McWilliams describes his cottage-style garden as a “green garden” and says he is attracted to perennials that have interesting foliage as well as the varied leaves of the many trees he has planted. Notable foliage trees thriving there include a tulip tree ( Liriodendron tulipifera), a ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba), a liquidambar ( Liquidambar styraciflua), an Indian chestnut ( Aesculus indica) and