Happy New Year! May 2015 be abundant with treasured moments in your garden, or in those you visit.
Occasionally a place can cast a spell, drawing you into its embrace. Jo Saxon-Keith and her husband John Keith experienced such magnetism at Lucaston, in Tasmania.
Twenty three years ago when they purchased a c.1907 cottage on 5 acres in Bakers Creek Road it became the family home for nearly five years. But when the Dreams V Reality battle began, they decided to sell and head back to Hobart where work kept them busy for another ten years.
Surprisingly, when Jo and John were really ready for ‘retirement’, the property came back onto the market and after an offer over the phone, to purchase, it became theirs once again. Extensive renovations (almost a rebuild) of the colonial-style cottage proceeded, and plans for a large, complementary garden evolved.
Much work was needed. Apart from installing access roads, level garden areas were developed and retaining walls built. Weedy pussy willows were removed; boggy land was drained; and the garden became more drought-proof with the construction of a water storage dam. A wallaby-proof boundary fence reduced garden damage (one little terrier named Pixie can’t deter them alone!).
The most exciting feature added was ‘Lake Lucindale’, home to white faced heron, both Pacific black and wood ducks – plus platypuses. (Just looked this up and apparently platypus is derived from Greek – so the plural should be platypodes – what a great word.) The lake’s changing moods can be appreciated in any weather – especially from the veranda.
Rows of giant poplars, planted by previous owners in 1955, border two edges of the lake. Jo and John accept both their bad habits and benefits: the poplars draw up nutrients making it difficult to establish lawn, and drop leaves over many months. However the mighty columns anchor the garden, and add a sense of establishment to this mostly young, seven-year-old garden.
“In autumn their intense colour can be seen from the Huon highway, and our gardens are thickly covered in golden leaves,” Jo says.
The day we visited was overcast. Colours were intense which was good for images but it was difficult to photograph the poplars in their entirety. Shoot from afar and you lose their impact; shoot close by, looking up, and a bright cloudy sky saturates the image with light.
So I’d love you to take a moment and imagine standing in these Gardens of Lucindale. You’ve found the garden along a picturesque country road in a valley, and enter through a grove of shady trees. The white cottage and timber fence are nestled beneath liquidambar, tulip, birch, mountain ash and a cluster of alders. On the dwelling’s south side towering sixty-year-old poplars reach skyward and, behind them, a large hill clothed in eucalypts adds a distinctly Australian ambience.
Throughout the garden Jo has placed favourite whimsical metal pieces by Matthew (Moby) Dick from Kimberley in the Northern Territory. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The vegie garden and orchard are adjacent to the main garden – and in handy proximity to the kitchen.
Of course every garden has challenges and this idyllic setting is no exception: intense valley winds, unpredictable pop-up springs, mossy lawns and -6 degree winter temperatures are just part of this gardening life.
Jo is passionate about maples. Of the 200+ trees planted for spectacular autumn colour, over fifty (27 cultivars) are maples. Others planted include birch, elm, ash, oak, liquidambar – and ornamental shrubs such as a row of sasanqua camellias behind the front fence.
Other thriving cool-climate beauties are azaleas, lupins, foxgloves and bearded iris. Clematis are a joy, and have found hosts in several areas including over a large cordyline that was one of the existing plants.
Wrens, robins, finches, thrush, willy-wagtails, parrots, swallows etc. all either live in our garden or pay regular visits.
What was Jo’s idea of her retirement project began to take on a life of its own after the Gardens of Lucindale were featured in a book on Tasmanian gardens. Suddenly she had requests for visiting, and positive reactions encouraged further openings with visitors loving its special charm.
If you’re visiting Tasmania you can make an appointment to visit by phoning Jo: 03 6266 4041