The Hetherington family has turned a few prickly bushes on “Darriveen”, near Longreach, Qld, into an ethereal sanctuary for both people and animals.

Story By Kim Woods Rabbidge

The entrance to Tony and Jan Hetherington’s garden “Darriveen”, 80 kilometres north of Longreach, Qld, is at the end of a long dirt road bordered, even during drought, by paddocks plentiful with Mitchell grass. As with many country gardens, you know you’re approaching when you see a dense, sylvan grove among vast, sparsely treed, gently undulating plains. It’s a sanctuary that’s sure to be watered, fertilised, mulched and nurtured.
Before crossing the grid, you pass a small lagoon, home to a family of Indian runner ducks. Then, on entering the garden, you’re captivated by the ethereal, filtered light within. Here trees spread their shady limbs over an expanse of raked terracotta soil and, in more sunny aspects, masses of bougainvilleas (Darriveen’s signature plant) provide colourful accents. “It’s our favourite,” Jan says, so it’s not surprising to learn they’ve planted about 300 of these versatile plants – and most she’s propagated herself.
In the canopy of trees, a crescendo of birdsong heralds each morning: this is a sanctuary not only for people, but feathered friends as well, and it’s in striking contrast to the landscape Tony’s parents confronted in 1950 when they bought the property. Back then there was little more than a few prickly bushes and a Parkinsonia tree. But after waiting four years for a dam, which had been dug out near the homestead, to finally fill up, they planted coolibahs, whitewoods, kurrajongs, Cook trees, poincianas and oleanders.
When Tony and Jan married 47 years ago and took over Darriveen, the garden began to draw them in. First they added tipuanas, Schotias, Burdekin plums, cottontrees and numerous eucalypts, then in the 1980s, once their five children were more independent, they rebuilt the fence further out, extending the garden to its current 1.5-hectare size.
Myriad trees have created a sheltered microclimate. “It can be a howling wind outside or stinking hot, but when you come in it’s degrees cooler and tranquil ... it’s such a haven,” says Tony, who these days oversees management of the property. He and Jan handed it over to one of their daughters, Edwina Cameron, and her husband Ray, but the family has moved to New South Wales while educating their children.

This story excerpt is from Issue #84

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012