Sally and Kevin Monaghan’s country garden is a whimsical beauty peppered with artefacts that tell the story of their lives and the region around them.

Story + Photos Terri Cowley

It’s spring and Sally Monaghan is growing broccoli, peas, radishes, beetroot, celery, rhubarb, rocket, lettuce, spring onions, eggplant and broad beans. A fence line overflows with boysenberries and raspberries. She apologises, saying there’s been illness in the family during winter, so the garden isn’t what it should be. Her worst efforts would put most householders to shame.

“We don’t know anything about plants,” Sally says with characteristic modesty. “Someone asked me to plan their garden and I said I couldn’t.” She describes hers as “a mishmash; anything you can pinch from a neighbour’s garden”. This mishmash has been opened to groups as a fundraiser and been the backdrop to many weddings and debutante ball photos. The bore-fed property owned by Sally and husband Kevin is at the edge of a hamlet of sprawling rural blocks on former dairy farms, 10km south of Shepparton, Vic, and never fails to catch the eye of passers-by.

The plants are a wonder – from red flowering gums, oaks, ash trees, coastal banksias and golden robinias, to rashes of African daisies, a honeysuckle hedge, bright pink pigface, fragrant lavender, climbing roses, purple hebe, rows and rows of agapanthus, stately hollyhocks, flashes of pretty diosma and a wisteria archway, to name just some of them. However, it is the sprinkling of bits and pieces of history that really gives this garden its character.

Colourful poles nicknamed ‘the knitting needles’ made from PVC pipes with water floats on top, were inspired by an Australian exhibit at a Chelsea Flower Show. Homemade barbed-wire balls sit atop old plough discs on stands once used for high jumping; pipes used for edging were recycled from the centre of wrapped hay bales; and a massive Dethridge wheel that regulated irrigation channels speaks to the region’s dryland agriculture.

This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023