Colourful roses, beautiful trees and a bounty of fruit and vegetables make up this impressive Riverina garden.

Story By Kathy Mexted

Gillian Leeds loves colour and has planted her garden with great sweeping masses of every shade of rose she could find. And she has found a few, judging by the floral assault on the eastern end of the garden on “Broome” between Coleambally and Jerilderie in New South Wales.
There are elements of the garden that remain from its establishment in the early 1920s. It was originally part of the larger Yanko Station, where Gillian was born. Gillian has lived on Broome since she was nine, only leaving for 10 years when she married in 1966 and returning as a widow with three children in 1976.
“My grandchildren play under the plane trees, lemon-scented gums, elm and willow myrtle planted by my father who brought the seeds back from Western Australia,” Gillian says. “I inherited my love of flowers from my mother and grandmothers. One grandmother loved roses and begonias and anything that would grow properly. There has never been time for fiddling with difficult things. I love to grow from cuttings and if they grow, then that’s good. If not, well, they probably shouldn’t be here anyway.”
Gillian’s cottage environs have about 32 different flowering plants and 16 varieties of tree including silky oak, claret ash, pin oak, elm, crab-apple, birch, crepe myrtle, willow myrtle, English holly and English ash. Perhaps the most nostalgic is a striking pink begonia. “We think it’s a begonia,” Gillian says. “It was given to me in the Cooma Hospital when I had David 44 years ago and I carted it around for eight years in a pot. It came to “Willandra” at Hillston, NSW, then right up to “Lansdowne” at Tambo, Qld, then back to Jerilderie where it has been planted out and multiplied in cultivated beds under some old radiata pines.”
David and his siblings wore a track around the tennis court and through the pony paddock that separated their home from the homestead 70 metres away that their grandparents lived in. Gillian became nervous about snakes and mowed a path for the kids. That was widened to accommodate some flowers and a small garden. In the 37 years since, a full-blown garden has evolved between the two houses.

This story excerpt is from Issue #89

Outback Magazine: June/July 2013