With its sloping lawns, saltbush hedges and French lavender borders, "Nap Nap" is an oasis on the Hay Plains.

Story By Trisha Dixon

A venerable river red gum, believed to be at least 800 years old, stands on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which flows through “Nap Nap” in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Forging their paddle steamers along the river with their heavy loads of wool, captains would tie their boats to this tree when delivering supplies and loading wool for shipment to Echuca, Vic.
The ‘Steamer Tree’, as it is known, is the anchor for the vast garden that surrounds the 1866 homestead, the only brick homestead remaining on the banks of the Murrumbidgee to the west of Hay. With its 100-kilometre river frontage, the property was named after an Aboriginal term for ‘much water’.
Nap Nap was first settled by George Hobler in 1845 but the original homestead located further to the west, was destroyed by fire some 20 years on. The existing homestead and garden was created on what was once one of Hobler’s shepherds’ camps. The Ronald family have added much to the garden in more than 100 years as custodians of the property. With the arrival of the Armstrong family from Melbourne in 1986, the garden’s style continued to soften. Under two generations of Cullenward stewardship, it has become the garden of note it is today.
“The garden has been a wonderful legacy to inherit,” current custodian Fleur Cullenward says. “It combines the history of the Ronald family with the dedication of the Armstrong family to preserve such beauty and memories of the past.”
With its lawns sloping down to the Murrumbidgee, stunning roses including ‘The Nap Nap Rose’ and ‘Mrs Ronald Rose’, wonderful old trees including an ancient carob tree, stunning Chinese elms, magnolias, jacarandas, productive trees such as quinces, almonds, peaches and olives, floriferous flower beds, French lavender borders, saltbush hedges and productive vegetable beds, the garden is an oasis on the Hay plains.

This story excerpt is from Issue #55

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2007