The Burburys of “Cambria”, on the east coast of Tasmania, created a real garden when they swapped their English country surroundings for gravels, grasses, hedges and herbs.

Story By Trisha Dixon

Gardening has been a journey of coming to terms with our challenging climate for Mandy and Nick Burbury, who live in one of the most historic homes and gardens on the east coast of Tasmania. “Cambria” dates back to 1830 and overlooks the Meredith River, named in honour of the Meredith family who were the original European owners at Swansea.
When Nick and Mandy married in 1979 they moved straight into the old Georgian home with its front gravel drive around a box hedge and large araucarias. Heritage architect, Clive Lucas, believes Cambria is the oldest original Georgian house left in Australia. With links to colonial writer, artist, botanist and conservationist Louisa Anne Meredith, who lived there briefly when she arrived in Tasmania, Cambria was described as the ‘Government House’ of the east coast.
“I thought back then you had to have an English garden around a Georgian house and set out to try and do this,” Mandy says. “I’ve since discovered I was beating my head against a brick wall! I did my best but year after year the wind blew down the hollyhocks, the lawn [that replaced the gravel drive] died every summer and the beds of annuals never looked healthy.”
A trip to the United Kingdom in 2005 was just the inspiration they needed. “To see the ease with which English gardens remain so well-established – plenty of rain, warm but not the windy and hot summers – made me realise that here in Australia we had to rethink our old ideas and habits of continually trying to nurture English plants in a hot climate.”
The following year, a walking holiday in Tuscany, a visit to France and an enlightening visit to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens at Cranbourne made Mandy and Nick aware of the delight in using gravels, grasses, box hedges and herbs. “Our Georgian house, after all, was more Italian countryside than English manor,” Mandy says. “I have turned over garden beds to Tassie gold stones, and used grasses and large pots filled with water for colour. My ultimate goal is to gravel the whole of the back area and plant Mediterranean species.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #70

Outback Magazine: April/May 2010