Eric and Cathy Wright’s spectacular West Australian garden uses natural fencing and sympathetic plantings to complement the surrounding environment.
Story By Trisha Dixon
Extending the garden into the landscape is one of the great strategies for creating vistas and grounding a home in the countryside. For Eric and Cathy Wright, on “Pine Avenue” at Kojonup in Western Australia, it has been the single most important element in the design of their garden.
It was the construction of a ‘ha-ha’ that allowed the garden to flow into the paddocks beyond. A ha-ha is a vastly underrated way of blending a garden into the surrounding landscape. It is basically a sunken fence or retaining wall, which allows uninterrupted views from the garden while providing a stock-proof barrier.
This ‘borrowed landscape’ is central to the Pine Avenue garden, set in the rolling country of the great southern rural district with its magnificent white gums. These white gums are not only a great statement in the landscape and shade for the 10,000 Merino sheep that graze the 3200-hectare property, but are also recycled and used in the garden. A wonderful type of timber for building, it is hard wood that is white-ant resistant. Some large logs that had been cut years ago to mill – but had been rejected and were stacked in the paddock – were put to good use in the construction of the ha-ha.
For a feature that was to change the whole character of the garden, it was deceptively simple to build. “It seemed to take a lot more thinking about than actually doing,” Eric says. “We were altering the driveway and extending the garden at the time and were able to dump soil easily to form the ha-ha. We were fortunate to have the natural fall in the land and the whole wall only took a day to build.”
Very much a family garden, Pine Avenue was established by Eric’s mother Olive, who was a great gardener and plantswoman. When Eric and Cathy married in 1988 and moved into the home and garden, Cathy became interested in heritage roses and cottage plants while Eric created pergolas, interesting fences, stone walls and paths.
Traditionally, the main fencing on Pine Avenue was a type only found in areas of Western Australia, known as the jam post. Made from jam trees – a type of wattle – they are quick-growing and resistant to white ants and were the early settlers’ answer to stock-proofing their properties. Jam posts were also once used to form solid fences in sheep yards and so, with an eye for good garden design, Eric salvaged some old jam posts and has recycled them into wonderful fences.
With Cathy’s love of roses and their growing interest in the aesthetics, a photograph in a book of a magnificent pergola at Micalago Station in southern New South Wales inspired their next structure – a stately pergola overhung with stunning climbing roses. Using culvert drainpipes as the uprights and old telephone posts as the overheads, the pergola has a wonderful presence in the garden and adds a touch of famed Australian landscape designer Edna Walling.
This story excerpt is from Issue #67
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2009