Dar­ling buds of May­field

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Australia - JU­LIA PA­TRICK

MAY­FIELD Gar­den, near Oberon in the NSW cen­tral tablelands, is a vi­sion­ary cre­ation. It’s the work of Gar­rick Hawkins, who bought the land in 1984 as a work­ing farm and planned his house and gar­den as a fam­ily week­ender.

But Hawkins was a fan of the beauty and grandeur of English and con­ti­nen­tal gar­dens and, with seem­ingly lim­it­less imag­i­na­tion, and col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal land­scape gar­den designer and nurs­ery­man Peter D’Arcy, the orig­i­nal plan grad­u­ally changed. “It just sort of evolved bit by bit,” Hawkins says. The 64ha master­piece fea­tures the fol­lies and fan­ci­ful fea­tures of Euro­pean gar­dens, blended with May­field’s over­all farm es­tate con­cept; against a back­drop of dis­tant rolling hills be­hind the en­trance build­ing, cafe (which uses es­tate-grown pro­duce) and nurs­ery, a gen­tly ris­ing grav­elled path through an av­enue of trees gives no hint of the plant­ings be­yond.

Then, quite sud­denly, this grav­elled path be­comes a sunken gar­den lined with blue­stone walls and massed hy­drangeas on each side, cre­at­ing a wide tun­nel ef­fect. The ex­cite­ment builds: what will we see next?

Then grad­u­ally, shaded by a back­drop of cy­press, the walk opens out on a huge, cir­cu­lar pond with an im­pos­ing obelisk in its cen­tre.

Wide, wind­ing paths and grace­fully curv­ing steps lead through a gar­den so skil­fully land­scaped that a dif­fer­ent vista brings a sur­prise at ev­ery turn. From be­neath a mas­sive blue­stone bridge, wa­ter cas­cades to ponds and trick­ling streams as lit­tle bridges cross to is­lands in the lakes ringed by Louisiana iris, dec­o­ra­tive hosta and wa­ter-lov­ing plants.

A wis­te­ria ar­bour leads to a unique foun­tain sculp­ture of a cop­per “tree” with wa­ter, like rain­drops, trick­ling from branch and leaf. Stately conifers, like sen­tinels stand­ing guard, frame vis­tas and av­enues, while groves of sil­ver birches, groups of maples and swaths of massed rhodo­den­drons, camel­lias and vibur­num in ar­tis­ti­cally or­ches­trated colour com­bi­na­tions es­tab­lish May­field as a cool-cli­mate gar­den.

The mag­i­cal wa­ter gar­den is open year round (aside from se­lected public hol­i­days), and the Hawkins’s pri­vate gar­den opens to vis­i­tors for two weeks in spring and au­tumn (April 18-May 3 and Oc­to­ber 17-Novem­ber 1 this year). In the lat­ter, the un­ex­pected and orig­i­nal — a stylish hen house, an aviary with de­tailed metal work as ex­otic as its birds and a high-hedged maze — fea­ture be­side the more con­ven­tional cro­quet lawn, rose beds and walled gar­den with es­paliered fruit trees. Hawkins built a charm­ing blue­stone chapel for his daugh­ter’s wed­ding.

Hawkins aims for the gar­den to be self-sus­tain­ing. It lies within his 2023ha work­ing sheep and cat­tle prop­erty and, wher­ever prac­ti­ca­ble, ma­te­ri­als, such as the mag­nif­i­cent blue­stone, have been lo­cally sourced and fin­ished by lo­cal crafts­men. Gar­den­ing, flo­ral art, craft and kids’ work­shops are held reg­u­larly, and last month 2000 mu­sic lovers heard the Mac­quarie Phil­har­mo­nia play in May­field’s nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre.

Be­fore you leave, climb the steps that curl around an an­cient tree trunk lead­ing to the look­out in the carpark. From here the vast panorama is spread out be­fore you. To call it a gar­den sud­denly seems some­thing of a mis­nomer.

• may­fieldgar­den.com.au

A misty morn­ing at May­field Gar­den, Oberon, NSW, above; mag­i­cal wa­ter gar­den, top right; and the view from the chapel, above right

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