Mark and Sally Holcombe have transformed their home paddock into a garden oasis that stars both European and native trees.

Story By Trisha Dixon

While outback may be a state of mind as much as a defining geographic term, it is certainly no deterrent to creating amazing gardens. The Holcombe family of “Noalimba”, just south of the Queensland border in northern New South Wales, is a case in point. Their property lies 50 kilometres east of Goondiwindi on the Macintyre River floodplain. With an eight-hour drive to Sydney and about half that to Brisbane, the Holcombes don’t look to the cities for their entertainment.
For Mark and Sally Holcombe and their four children, Victoria, Scott, Annabel and Henry, their home is their domain and the garden a vital part of their lifestyle. Here they spend long summer evenings eating around a long table under the shade of huge claret ash and Chinese elm, swim in the large stretch of water that is the focal point of the garden, play family games of cricket and tennis, grow fresh veggies and fruit, and entertain.
And yet it hasn’t always been the garden oasis it is now. When Mark and Sally moved here 28 years ago, there were two trees behind the house and the rest was an open paddock. Putting the dam in 15 years ago was the making of the garden and, apart from looking stunning year round, it is the water supply for the house, garden, stock and swimming pool.
Known for their horses, horsemanship and prowess at spouting poetry, the Holcombes are keen riders who breed, break and educate their own animals. Mark’s family have lived for four generations in the Goondiwindi district and Sally also grew up in the district with her mother, sister and other family and friends – all passionate gardeners. She and Mark run Noalimba in conjunction with other family-owned properties.
The garden was inspired by friends’ properties in the tableland areas of central and southern New South Wales and books by Edna Walling and The Laws of Gardening by Caroline Laws.
Situated between Yetman and North Star, Noalimba benefits from the rich, chocolate-brown loam of Brigalow Belah and floodplain country. Summers are hot, reaching 47 degrees Celsius-plus and winters can be freezing with heavy frosts and temperatures down to minus 7 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is usually 660 millimetres per annum although they have experienced three of their driest years over the past four.
“There has been no garden plan as such,” Sally says. Yet the plane-tree walk, the sunken garden and the large expanse of water show a great love of design. The garden had its genesis in a trip to Canberra where Mark and Sally fell in love with the beautiful European trees. “So against some local advice we elected to have a mix of European deciduous trees with natives,” Sally says. “Some of the successful European trees we have planted are London plane trees, ash, elms, poplars, maples and oaks. Among the native trees that grow well here are lemon-scented white chinchilla and torelliana eucalypts.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #58

Outback Magazine: April/May 2008