THERE ARE DISCOVERIES TO BE MADE AT EVERY TURN IN THIS LUSH ROSE GARDEN IN NORTHERN TASMANIA.
WHEN IT COMES TO ROSES, Brookhaven garden on the outskirts of Deloraine in northern Tasmania, has them in abundance. Not your tame garden varieties but wild and thorny shrubs, ramblers and climbers that cascade down the hillside or tumble from purpose-built pergolas. If you stand still, they may engulf you. In summer and autumn when the roses are in full bloom, the scent is overwhelming and the jewel-like colours offer a visual feast. The garden flows across a hillside and down to a lake. It recently spread to include a small island in the lake. Beyond the garden is the lush, rolling green agricultural landscape of northern Tasmania. Behind is the majestic Quamby Bluff. Planting started at Brookhaven some 14 years ago with the clearing of a hillside of gorse. The hard work has continued ever since. The result is an astonishing garden maintained by Tom Lyons and partner Fraser Young, a retired surgeon. Tom says he pictures his garden in his imagination before planting it in the soil and it is constantly evolving. The garden is the setting for the couple’s modern house and studio. The old farmhouse, which stood on the flat part of their 26-hectare block, was beyond repair and was demolished. “Rather than rebuilding on that site it made sense to demolish what was left of the old building and start again on the hillside, leaving the flat part of the farm for cropping and a lake, with the rough ground for the garden,” Tom explains. Working with Hobart architect Bruce Glanville, the pair designed their home and studio to make the most of the site and soak up the northern sun. There are a series of decks that overlook the garden and connect the two pavilion-like structures. It’s possible to see most of the garden from the house, but once outside, walking is the only way to discover this vast space. As well as being crossed by paths, the garden is divided by hedges, concealing the plantings. The hedging was started when Tom planted a long row of hakeas to block out the road that snakes along one boundary. More hedges followed, roughly dividing the hillside into three areas. He then made rough mown grass paths across the property. Despite the scale of the garden and its continuing evolution, Tom has never committed a design to paper. Instead he walks the kilometre or more of paths that crisscross the site, observing the flow of the garden and the progress of plantings. New ideas germinate and blossom on his daily walks. The garden is an experience to be enjoyed walking from one vista to the next before finally reaching the lake. In open areas trees cast shade across the grass paths. On windy days — and there are many in this part of northern Tasmania, located amid the strong winds of the Roaring Forties — the hedges form protected microclimates and provide much needed shelter for the plants. >
Tom says he had a long-held passion for roses but it was when he went to a talk by local rosarian and author Susan Irvine, who spoke about Scots roses, that he realised what sort of rose garden he wanted to create. “She mentioned a book by Mary Mcmurtrie called Scots Roses of Hedgerows and Wild Gardens,” Tom recalls. “She described a hillside garden planted with broad sweeps of wild roses, heath and cistus.” With those words he had the vision for his garden and soon enough he also had a copy of Mary Mcmurtrie’s book. Inspired by her rose descriptions and beautiful watercolour illustrations, he began broad-brush plantings of species, heritage and David Austin roses. Tom has also planted many climbers including his favourite ‘Sander’s White Rambler’. While this garden is a rose-lover’s paradise, it is more than roses. Cherries and crabapples (both members of the rose family) also star along with massed birch, buddleia, coppices of wattles and recently planted New Zealand kowhai trees (Sophora microphylla). In late winter and spring daffodils carpet the ground, while in summer tall spires of lupins and foxgloves make colourful clumps among the roses. In one area a stand of ornamental cherries and crabapples has been hidden within a hedged garden to surprise visitors. Included here and in pockets through the rest of the garden, is Tom’s favourite crabapple, Malus ioensis ‘Plena’. But, of course, roses are the main focus, and the climbing roses are managed on large and ornate timber arbours. Realising he wanted arbours that were strong enough to support the rampant rose growth, yet could also be garden features, Tom called in local craftsman and builder Paul Noordanus to create arbours that were both functional and decorative. Paul used salvaged wood and other timber for the structures, then carved flourishes and decorative details. Paul’s practical and artistic contributions extend to the wooden gates he built throughout the garden. The glorious chicken coop is also his handy work, as is the Californian redwood boathouse beside the lake. Completing the boathouse at the edge of the lake drew Tom’s attention on the island at its centre, which is known as Etoline’s Island (named for Fraser’s mother, who in turn was named after the Alaskan island Etolin). That patch of land is now festooned with roses, flowering annuals and perennials. Such a large garden, particularly one planted with big, very thorny roses, could get out of control without regular maintenance. Indeed Tom and Fraser spend much of their time working outdoors. The large swathes of lawn and broad grass paths are cut regularly with a ride-on mower, while uneven areas are kept in check with a brushcutter. Winter is pruning time at Brookhaven and with so many roses to be cut back, this isn’t a task that’s tackled with small secateurs. Much of the pruning is done with a hedge trimmer.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT A small bridge continues the garden path around the outside of the lake; Etoline’s Island is filled with flowering plants including foxgloves; a close-up look at ‘Windrush’ flowers; Tom on the pontoon boat, which he uses to reach the island; grass paths crisscross the wild garden; a ‘Blushing Pierre de Ronsard’ rose; hard at work in the garden.
CLOCKWISE, FROM ABOVE RIGHT The boathouse, crafted by Paul Noordanus from redwood timber milled from a fallen tree; Paul also made the gates throughout the garden; the striped ‘Sentimental’ rose; a rambling rose bush beside the hen house; a glimpse of the lake with its boathouse and island; a ‘Sander’s White Rambler’ rose; Tom beside the Keyhole Gate. He walks through his large garden every day.