In northern Tasmania Peter Cooper and Karen Hall have created a frost-tolerant garden that includes an amazing orchard, a whimsical labyrinth and stunning sculptures.

Story By Freya Griffin

More than two decades ago Peter Cooper and Karen Hall packed up their belongings in Brisbane and moved south to Mole Creek, hidden deep within Tasmania’s Meander Valley, just shy of an hour west of Launceston. With hearts set on a lifestyle change, the couple set out looking for outdoorsy work as soon as they arrived. “We managed to get jobs as gardening hands in some of Tasmania’s most renowned gardens,” Peter says. “We learnt from the best and that gave us great confidence to do the same on a greater scale on our own property.”
In that very year Wychwood Garden was born. The property now hosts its own nursery, apple orchard, whimsical labyrinth, vegetable garden and the most stunning garden sculptures. There is also a charming visitors’ shop with an eclectic range of gifts and, for those inspired to spend more time in their own garden, Digadoo gardening tools (a brand used by the couple for the past decade).
The challenge for Peter and Karen was not necessarily creating a beautiful garden from scratch – more so ensuring their labour of love would survive the bitter cold of a valley famous for its year-round frosts. “Everything we plant must get used to this environment,” Karen says. “Our nursery is in the open, only protected by shadecloth. The seedlings are frozen in their pots in the winter. They are conditioned to the climate from the very start.”
The two are not particularly influenced by garden fashions. “We simply grow what we love,” Karen says. And what varieties do they love most? Hardy, cool-climate perennials and grasses, of course. It is refreshing to see these perennials used to create more greenery in the garden beds. Newly planted gardens are often covered in pea straw, firstly to improve the soil but also for aesthetic appeal. Having worked on the garden for 21 years, Karen and Peter only need to mulch once a year, which means they can dedicate their time and energy to other activities – such as making their own cider.
In the orchard, trees heave with enormous, juicy apples of 45 different varieties. Peter reflects on his time growing up in Sweden, climbing apple trees and sampling the sweet, crunchy fruit. “We love cooking with apples and the cider production is a favourite hobby of mine,” he says. “We invite our friends around and there is a lot of picking and crushing.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #83

Outback Magazine: June/July 2012