After winters working in the desert, Allan and Susan Ronk recharge in their garden among the karri trees. 

Story + Photos Kim Woods Rabbidge

At Quinninup, amid the giant karri forests of south-western WA, there’s a rambling 2ha garden that serves as sanctuary for Allan and Susan Ronk when they return from winters working in the outback. Allan and Susan run Karri Hill Geological Information Services, and some years they live for months in the Pilbarra; this year they’ll return to the Gulf Country, near Hells Gate.

Their lifestyle couldn’t be more contrasting: camping out in the desert, taking images from their kit-plane, a Just Aircraft SuperSTOL, then returning to the softer climes of Karri Hill Garden. “Each time we come back the garden’s a jungle,” Susan says. “Forget-me-nots are the main groundcover. Allan gets on the tractor; I get on the lawn mower. We do wheelies around the garden, then we unpack.” Once it’s mown, they work out what jobs need doing straight away and what jobs they’ll do shortly. 

The garden forms part of a 40ha block the couple has owned since 1994. Around 32ha is timbered, and when they bought it the house block consisted of little more than blackberries and bracken. “We installed an electric fence around 4ha to keep out kangaroos, rabbits and emus. You couldn’t have a garden otherwise,” Susan says. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #130

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2020