For Sandy and Simon Doolin, time spent in their garden of old-fashioned roses on “Cleveland”, North Star, NSW, keeps their busy life balanced.

Story By Kim Woods Rabbidge

The "Cleveland" garden at North Star, just south of the Queensland border near Goondiwindi, is very much a Doolin family affair. While Sandy Doolin is the primary designer and gardener, she insists that her husband, Simon, has been integral to its success. Both Simon (who works with his family in a mainly cropping enterprise) and Sandy have backgrounds in agricultural science, and it’s evident they have a shared passion for the inspiring landscape they’re creating.
When beginning the garden, Sandy appreciated the wisdom of locals Binna Munsie and Di Scheinberg who shared tips on design and plant selection, and Carolyn Robinson, from the acclaimed Tenterfield garden “Glenrock”, who has been generous with her guidance and encouragement.
After visiting countless gardens and developing her own extensive site, Sandy is now being approached to help others – showing the spirit of country gardening. “My grandmother loved her garden at Myall Downs and Sandy’s Jandowae family are gardeners; it’s in both families,” says Simon, who enjoys the precious weekends he’s able to spend working in the garden with Sandy and their young boys. When ‘coworkers’ Jack, aged four, and Sam, aged two, aren’t busy with earthmoving projects in the sandpit or kicking a ball with ‘Polly’ the dog, they love helping with tasks such as rock-gathering expeditions to the creek. “It’s important to keep life balanced,” says Simon, who also plays polo in the winter for North Star, with his family support team in tow.
The first indication that Cleveland is well designed is the practical and attractive entrance. Before visitors enter the garden through an arbour, they park in a dedicated bay bordered by pink roses, hardy grey-foliaged yucca, artemisia and an elaegnus hedge. This park-like section, with raised garden beds and both deciduous and indigenous trees, is one of several transitional areas connecting the garden and paddocks.
“The soil is clay and can be quite puggy,” Sandy says. “So before planting we deep-ripped, then raised the beds and added heaps of organic matter.” Sandy has been building garden edges with flagstones. “The early ones were a bit higgledy-piggledy, but they improved when Carolyn showed me a better technique, with each rock face on the line.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #73

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2010