The best ideas flourish on this dairy farm
Jodi Broomby has just come in from milking the cows at Golden Hills and is heading for her garden. “It’s my little piece of heaven,” she says. “It’s my space where I feel happy.”
The 121ha dairy property, between Launceston and Devonport in Tasmania, has been in her husband John’s family since 1946. The couple, both local to the Tamar Valley, moved back to the farm in 2000 to run their herd of Holstein cows after spending the mid-’90s travelling NSW and Victoria for John’s work as an agricultural pilot.
Jodi started gardening at Golden Hills with a blank canvas and little knowledge. “There was lawn everywhere,” she says. “Now there are only two strips and the rest of the half-acre or more is garden.”
She learnt by reading a friend’s English gardening books at night when her children were young, and then “by trial and error”. Her early designs were based on the long perennial borders she loved in those books but she started experimenting with new plants. “Then I saw a book on [Dutch garden designer] Piet Oudolf and I fell in love with that naturalistic style. It’s so calming and lovely,” she says. Oudolf is a leader of the New Wave perennial movement, which uses airy grasses and sculptural perennials in combinations inspired by nature.
“It was an easy transition for me as I love interesting perennials, so I just started adding the grasses and experimenting with how they work together,” Jodi says. She added meadow gardens, where low, tough perennials and grasses are tightly intermingled. She also experiments with colour themes, having a blue and yellow area and a couple of “hot borders” featuring bright red, orange and yellow varieties of daylilies, Helenium, Rudbeckia and Crocosmia. Her two main borders are 60m long by 10m wide, allowing for rich layering of plants, stepping down in height from climbing roses and clematis on bamboo frames at the back to small perennials at the front. “There are hundreds of different varieties,” she says.
With a dairy farm you have a ready supply of cow manure, but her favourite material is the straw-based bedding that comes out of the pens in which she raises her calves. After
composting, it goes on the roses once a year. She also uses spent mushroom compost from a local producer, but no other fertilisers.
“John turns up with a fork in his hand when the ladies from the garden club come here,” Jodi laughs. “But he doesn’t do as much as he thinks he does in the garden – he’s always busy on the farm.” Her biggest project was a 30m-long rock wall. “I dragged stone from all over the farm,” she recalls. At 52, she admits the workload gets tougher every year on her back and hands – arthritic from years of milking – but she wouldn’t dream of stopping.
Now an acknowledged expert in Tasmania, Jodi also runs a small nursery specialising in perennials that she propagates. She’s even supplied plants to Government House in Hobart.