Creating a cottage garden in southern Queensland’s subtropical inland has been a revelation for former sheep farmer Libby Murphy.

Story By Kim Woods Rabbidge

Cooroy’s soft, rolling hills in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland are a world away from western New South Wales, where Libby Murphy began a woollen bed products business more than 20 years ago to help her family during tough times on the land.

A decade later, she moved Libby’s Aussie Wool north, and seven years ago found a 2.4-hectare block of land she named The Hills outside Cooroy. “There was nothing here but weeds,” Libby says. However, the lovely outlook made up for both the weeds and an ugly cutting in the hillside – one of the site issues she’s been able to address with the help of friend and garden designer Cheryl Boyd.

At the top of the driveway that leads down a tree-lined avenue, two stacked stone structures herald the garden’s artistry. One is a purely decorative pyramid topped with a sphere; the other is a cubed pillar mailbox beneath overhanging branches of a poinciana.

There’s a sense of discovery as you head down past the white-trunked leopard trees, beyond which are glimpses of the undulating paddocks. On the upper side, mass plantings of grasses, bougainvillea, bauhinia, warm climate bulbs and native shrubs are now stabilising the hillside. Here is also ‘the hive’ – a shed used to produce woollen quilts, pillows and even doggy doonas. It’s softened by an entrance arbour draped in delicate Dalechampia vine that appears to be covered in magenta butterflies.

Further along, Libby’s relocated cottage is nestled into the landscape as if it’s been there forever. Beside the stone entrance path a group of magnolia Little Gem, and gordonias bedecked with yellow-centred white blooms are under-planted with a haze of euphorbia Diamond Frost.

“I thought I’d have to have a garden with all sub-tropical plants when I moved here, but when I discovered it’s okay to have a cottage-style I was amazed – it’s wonderful,” Libby says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #105

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2016