Jenny and Mike Ward have spent 20 years creating and nurturing the Northern Territory’s largest privately owned tropical display garden. 

Story + photos Kerry Sharp

Visitors to the Northern Territory’s Anthill Gardens, 50 kilometres south of Darwin, are left in awe that one couple can keep this sprawling bush sanctuary and its priceless botanical contents looking so good, while still holding down demanding full-time jobs in town. 

“Needless to say, we don’t get much rest on weekends,” laughs Darwin-born psychologist Jenny Ward, who, with husband Mike, has spent 20 years transforming four virgin hectares of their 20ha Berry Springs block into the alluring showpiece it is today. “It’s never been a chore for us,” Jenny says. “When you’re truly passionate about something you do, it gives you the greatest pleasure.”

The Territory’s largest privately owned tropical display garden, with paddocks of lofty cathedral termite mounds flanking its entrance (hence the name Anthill), is an eclectic mix of lush green lawns and vibrant floral avenues, magical leafy hideaways, gentle ponds, a creek complete with barramundi, prized exotic rarities and quirky recycled ‘junk’ sculptures, all shaded by towering native trees. 

“Just keeping the lawns mowed takes one full day if we go hard at it, and the best part of two days at a steady pace,” says Mike, an LNG pipeline maintenance contractor who came north from Adelaide as a young mechanic in the 1970s. “Jenny keeps a tight rein on the garden side of things and I look after the larger-scale mowing, slashing, pruning, watering and general ground upkeep.” He reckons he has to go to work on Mondays just to get a rest!

This story excerpt is from Issue #112

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2017