Just on the edge of Glen Innes, in the New England region on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Andrew and Fiona McIntosh have developed a garden with an intrinsic sense of peace.
Their family farm is further out of town, but the garden, covering 1.5 hectares of an 8 hectare block surrounding their gracious 1870 home, Brandon, is an idyllic sanctuary.
Hedges are Brandon’s signature element; they provide definition and delineate garden rooms designed by Fiona during the twenty eight years the McIntoshs have been in residence. When they arrived as a young, busy family there were a few trees and some round beds in the lawn. Over time beds and old pines were removed, and boundaries extended. Mostly European trees grace the garden: various oaks – red, chestnut, and English oaks, poplars, maples, elms, a big native bunya pine.
“One of the Leylandii cypress hedges planted for protection is now also ready to be replaced as it’s encroached on the space of maturing trees. We were going to take it out last summer but it was too hot and dry and it was adding quite a lot of protection. We’ve already planted some replacements behind them, further out.” says Fiona.
Adjacent to the house an outdoor living room festooned in Boston ivy, Parthenocissus triuspidata is a cool retreat in summer; and in winter it catches the sun on the precious days it’s warm enough to sit outside.
Brandon’s many arbours, pergolas, trellises and stone walls have been expertly constructed by Andrew, and son Fergus as he too developed the talent. Careful consideration to positioning, and the generous proportions of each structure contribute to the garden’s harmony.
A croquet lawn between the terraces is one of Fiona’s favourite areas. “I love looking back up towards the house, across the stone wall.”
A delightful garden shed built by Fergus houses the lawn mowers. While plantings closer to the house such as hydrangeas, acanthus and iris are less formal and jostle for space, they’re nevertheless tempered by low box hedges.
Some of the hedges are May, lonicera, buxus, Pittosporum ‘James Stirling’, and the wine-coloured Physocarpus opulifolius purpurea. The variety adds textural layers in the predominantly green garden.
“We’re pruning hedges all year round; some are deciduous but others, like Leylandii need to be kept tight by trimming them every couple of months.”
Fiona has chosen not to make a floriferous garden although spring blossom is always welcome. There are splashes of burgundy and other warm hues in this serene landscape that’s mainly green – except during times of drought when it’s more difficult to keep lawns verdant.
Strong axes throughout the garden draw your attention towards focal points, or onto the next room. “I like symmetry; I like the garden to be formal but relaxed at the same time.”
The spaces retained are just as important as those planted; swathes of open lawn are quiet places.