SPRING SPE­CIAL

Artist Michael McWil­liams has cre­ated a spe­cial slice of par­adise at his prop­erty in north­ern Tas­ma­nia

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Upfront - WORDS JEN­NIFER STACK­HOUSE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY CHRIS KIDD and JEN­NIFER STACK­HOUSE

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

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