GREENER PAS­TURES

ONCE A BARE PAD­DOCK, RED COW FARM IS NOW A LEAFY, FLOWER-FILLED GAR­DEN ON THE MUST-SEE LIST FOR GAR­DEN LOVERS AND VIS­I­TORS TO THE NSW SOUTH­ERN HIGH­LANDS.

Country Style - - CONTRIBUTORS - WORDS JEN­NIFER STACK­HOUSE

The story of Red Cow Farm, a gar­den sanc­tu­ary in the NSW South­ern High­lands.

THE CU­RI­OUSLY NAMED Red Cow Farm in the his­toric South­ern High­lands vil­lage of Sut­ton For­est is home to Ali Men­tesh and Wayne Mor­ris­sey, and open to gar­den vis­i­tors from spring to au­tumn. The prop­erty’s name hints at its early his­tory, when in 1820 a land grant was made to ex-con­vict Ge­orge Sewell. His herd of red Here­ford cat­tle grazed the farm’s pas­tures. Ali says there was no grand plan for the 2.5-hectare gar­den but rather it was de­vel­oped in re­sponse to the site and has kept evolv­ing for more than 25 years. “For the first 18 months that we owned Red Cow Farm I couldn’t leave my work in Syd­ney so we started by get­ting struc­tures built such as the drive­way and walls, as well as plant­ing wind­breaks for shel­ter and ex­ca­vat­ing the lake,” says Ali. The wind­breaks were vi­tal to give shel­ter so hedges and or­na­men­tal plant­ings could es­tab­lish. “When I moved per­ma­nently to the farm in 1991, a lot of walk­ing around the prop­erty showed me how the gar­den could flow,” he ex­plains. Ali, who once worked in hospi­tal­ity but is now a land­scape designer, says that hol­i­days spent vis­it­ing great Euro­pean gar­dens in­flu­enced the gar­den’s de­vel­op­ment. Siss­inghurst in Kent was par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing for the idea of gar­den rooms, but he was also cap­ti­vated by Christo­pher Lloyd’s ex­per­i­men­tal plant­ings at Great Dix­ter in East Sus­sex. The late Beth Chatto’s gar­den in Es­sex, where plants are matched to their na­tive habi­tats, also left a last­ing im­pres­sion. Hedg­ing is a fea­ture through­out the prop­erty’s gar­den. As well as pro­vid­ing shel­ter, struc­ture and for­mal­ity, the ex­ten­sive hedges cre­ate in­ti­mate spa­ces and a back­drop for plant­ings, as low, clipped box hedges and top­i­aries edge flowerbeds. “They frame the full-on ex­u­ber­ance of the flo­ral plant­ings,” ex­plains Ali. That ex­u­ber­ance is first en­coun­tered at the gar­den’s en­trance, where the sunny gar­den around the 1820s cot­tage is filled with a pro­fu­sion of flow­ers in­clud­ing old-fash­ioned roses that cas­cade over the sim­ple white picket fence. Be­yond the cot­tage, the plant­ing flows through a se­ries of 20 gar­den rooms. At its heart is the large lake. Some ar­eas tum­ble with roses, clema­tis and wis­te­ria while oth­ers, shaded by trees, are filled with wood­land trea­sures. One of the first gar­den spa­ces Ali and Wayne de­vel­oped was dubbed the Monastery Gar­den as it was planted with herbs in keep­ing with tra­di­tional gar­dens around monas­ter­ies. Stat­ues of saints and an en­clos­ing wall with five clois­ter-like arches de­vel­oped the theme. The gar­den now also sports cherub sculp­tures, a well, a bell on a plinth and or­na­men­tal peren­nial plant­ings. Var­ie­gated ivy clothes the walls be­hind the arches. >

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MICHAEL WEE

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