One of the best things about life after politics for Doug and Margot Anthony has been the opportunity to landscape and grow beautiful plants on their Tweed Valley property.

Story +  Photos Kim Woods Rabbidge

Margot and Doug Anthony love relaxing on their verandah with a sublime view over their garden and the meandering Tweed River in the valley below. Doug, who was leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister in the 1970s and ’80s, brought his new wife to Sunnymeadows 61 years ago. 

“He and a builder were renovating the old farmhouse and it was barely habitable when we moved in,” Margot says. “The garden was non-existent, apart from three hibiscus entwined with kikuya.” Over the next few years the couple’s three children were born. There wasn’t much time for gardening, although Doug and his uncle did plant a memorial drive of trees in honour of Doug’s father, Larry.

Then Canberra called. At the age of 27, Doug won his late father’s seat of Richmond, which he held until he retired from politics in 1984. When appointed Minister for the Interior, which included responsibilities for the development and administration of Canberra, he headed south to the capital. Margot and their small children followed, and for the next 25 years they commuted between Murwillumbah and Canberra. Margot managed to squeeze in her beloved music, occasionally giving piano recitals. She also became a passionate gardener and joined a Canberra garden club. “The members were very enthusiastic and helpful, as I knew nothing about cold-climate gardens,” she says.  

Having fallen in love with cold-climate plants like hellabores, iris and lilac, Margot brought some back with her when they moved back to Sunnymeadows in 1984. “Of course they didn’t like it one little bit!” she says. “I was trying to defy the climate but the force of nature is very strong. You just have to go with it – and keep pruning,” she says, referring to rampant growth in this high rainfall region.  

The garden that had “limped along” in their absence now became a shared passion. Projects included landscaping around the new tennis court and pool. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #121

Outback Magazine: October/November 2018