Cream rises

The best ideas flour­ish on this dairy farm

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE - he­len Young

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.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Claire Takacs

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