Adaptability and plenty of elbow grease have helped Kerrie Robinson create a dryland oasis.

Story By Fleur Bainger

When you consider what Kerrie Robinson is up against on “Karabine”, in York, WA, it’s a wonder she has a garden at all. Check the challenges off on your fingers: she has next to no water to sustain her plants, contends with baking hot summers, frosts and tornadoes, and wages a constant war against leaf-shredding parrots. And despite having three adult boys, neither they nor their father have offered her much help over the years, though they have been responsible for the occasional plant-destroying spray drift. “My husband Tony had his 1600 hectares of crops and sheep,” Kerrie says. “That was his garden. And the boys were always too busy.”
Fortunately, Kerrie has elbow grease in spades and steely determination to match, not to mention a deep love for her quarter-hectare oasis, which is surrounded by the rusty red dirt common to the York region, nearly two hours east of Perth.
“That’s tough,” she says, pointing at a creeping bush of jasmine. “That’s tough,” she repeats, passing a cluster of seaside daisy. It seems to be her mantra, as she proudly shows off the result of more than three decades of hard work.
“I hated this garden when I first got here,” she laughs. “I came from over east, where it was green and lush, and I just couldn’t relate to it. It was so different to what I’d grown up with.” But after a year-long stand-off, the country doctor’s daughter rolled up her sleeves, got to work and fell in love.
Ironically, Kerrie pulled out many of the plants that she now grows, learning the hard way what would and wouldn’t survive in the Western Australian Wheatbelt’s punishing conditions. Inheriting the now century-old garden from her mother-in-law, she tore out piles of succulents and hardy perennials, replacing them with more than 100 types of heritage roses, rows of poppies and lavender, and covering the bare ground with grass and straw.

This Story is from Issue #88

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2013