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