Annette Coward’s sprawling country garden in Mungindi provides a constant source of inspiration for her creative pursuits and a cooling refuge for her whole family to enjoy.

On any given day you will find Annette in her garden, tending to its care, relaxing with the family, hosting a gathering or just sitting in quiet contemplation drawing inspiration for her artwork and photography interests. Bruce and Annette Coward, together with their children, Tom (17) and Claire (14), live on the family property, Barra, about 26 kilometres south west of Boomi where they grow cotton.

“When we arrived over 17 years ago there was no garden to speak of,” said Annette. “Luckily my mother-in-law had made a start for us, planting some trees for shade.” Annette got to work putting the bones of the garden in place, runners for lawn were brought over from Bruce’s parents’ nearby property, Comillaroy, and more trees were planted including one of Annette’s favourite natives, the lemon scented gum. With toddlers underfoot, Annette’s garden grew and the boundary fence was shifted a number of times to allow more space for beds and her ongoing passion for form and colour in garden design. “I really enjoyed being outside with the children – although I couldn’t find time for other artistic pursuits, I was able to create in our outside surrounds,” says Annette, who trained as an art teacher.

A reliable water supply from the Boomi River, which snakes through the property, means Annette can keep her garden alive in the harsh Summers and in drought times. However, this same boon also presented its challenges. Annette recalls, “The first time the garden experienced a flood, the water came halfway up the front path, killing lawn, trees and shrubs – I told Bruce, ‘We need a levee bank!’” With the levee bank in place and the eventual installation of an automated water system, the future of the garden was secure. Expanses of lawn were softened with garden beds filled with roses, salvias and hardy shrubs and perennials, many given as cuttings from other gardening enthusiasts. Lawn trees provide shade and an Edna Walling inspired nook adds an element of surprise and interest. “We did keep a fairly large area of lawn, at Bruce’s request, so that the children had a place to play cricket and football!” said Annette with a smile.

Annette chooses trees for their hardiness, shade canopy and also for the texture of the bark. “I think the bark is sometimes as important as the foliage or flowers,” says Annette. Chinese elms, crepe myrtle, Chinese tallow and a variety of natives all grow happily in the garden. Annette also likes to feature herbs throughout the beds, rather than secluding them in separate areas, taking on the concept of the French potager style of gardening. With both children now away at boarding school, Annette is aiming to throw herself into her own artwork, which includes transferring her garden’s beauty onto canvas.

Words by Kerryn Suttor  | Images by Jennifer Street