When John and I bought our property in 1976 the whole area was open farming country with no vineyards or buildings in sight, the only vegetation being giant red gums. The landscape has certainly changed!
We immediately began planting trees, both as shelter for sheep and cattle as well as ornamental planting for the home and garden we intended to create. We built our home in 1980 by which time we had 5 acres of garden fenced off. This has since grown to twice that size with ornamental trees, indigenous plants and roses being my main interest. We have opened our garden many times, and have raised well over $50,000 for charity. The garden has been part of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme on several occasions.
We originally chose the site for our house so that the driveway could wind its way between two gigantic old red gums, a real feature in the garden. On a calm sunny day in 2005 without warning one of them suddenly snapped off a few feet from the base and came crashing to the ground. This changed the whole dynamics of that section of the garden – what was in shade was now in full sun and so a different range of plants could be used. After the peripheral branches had been disposed of, the old redgum remained an important part of the garden, an impressive sculptural work.
In 1987 we had a lake excavated to attract water birds and John built a jetty next to which we have a small rowing boat moored. Then in 1993 John built a lawn tennis court with a large gazebo on the western side. I have planted roses around the sides with a low fence surrounding them to keep the rabbits at bay – we are plagued with hundreds of them!
In 1997 we went into partnership with a local vigneron family and set aside 70 acres of Camawald which was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vines. We still run sheep and cattle on the remaining land with some flood irrigated pasture and lucerne which John cuts for hay.
During 2010 we decided to build a Bed and Breakfast complex and approached Blue Lake Homes in Mount Gambier to build a transportable house for us so that there would be as little disturbance to the garden as possible. This was an interesting time and I loved planning the rooms and the décor. The house arrived on the back of a long transport in April 2011. Watching it slowly weave its way down Rocky Castle Road between the overhanging red gums was very exciting. It was set in position without a hitch despite two inches of rain falling over the previous couple of days. We have set up what we hope is a simple yet comfortable homestead where the outside comes into the rooms and the occupants can enjoy the surrounding countryside just by sitting in the living room and looking out the large picture windows.