The Jimbour plain to the north of Dalby has a beauty all of its own. Travelling west, one is unaware that the Bunya Mountains are creating voluptuous ripples in the horizon far behind.
Across the plain the huge blue Autumn sky creates a cupola over a flat vista of colour and shape. Ripe sorghum crops paint paddocks a bold and beautiful red; new young millet crops lay down a swathe of Irish green. Taller silage creates a yellowing border to a gravel road, one of the maze of gravel roads here on which one could seemingly lose oneself forever. The farmhouses stand stark and functional, some with a smattering of surrounding bushes bespeaking past gardening ambitions. All is treeless except for a straggling gallery forest following the line of a distant creek. Suddenly a couple of tall white gums loom; strange, as this treeless blacksoil plain is not gumtree country.
Closer still and conversation in the car stops. We’ve reached Maclands and the famed garden of Neil and Sonya McVeigh. We cannot believe our eyes. We seem to have arrived at some kind of sophisticated wonderland Here nature has been coaxed out of its pastel shades and teased into a magnificent welter of vivacious colour on a backdrop of lush greenery. Huge trees and tall olive hedges shelter a fantastically ordered garden consisting of manicured paths, shrubs, trees, topiaries and flowerbeds with ‘room’ after garden ‘room’ of thematic spaces, all around the lovely McVeigh home. Each separate garden area contains not one, and not two, but myriad special garden features – sandstone fountains, garden seats, statues, huge pots and urns, lamp posts, hanging baskets and secret paths. Each space is bordered with a hedge of box – westringia – teucrium, duranta, mock orange.
Trees such as melaleuca revolution gold are shaped into balls, spirals, topiaries. Every plant is healthy and flourishing. There is not a weed in sight. Who does all this? We are greeted by a tubby corgi called Keena. She’s the doorbell. On and on she barks til Sonya emerges and bids us welcome. “How did this come about?” considers Sonya, thoughtfully. “Well, during the drought in the 90s, Neil asked me to water the lawn. He wanted some green around the place.” As Keena’s mates, Dudley (a cocker spaniel) and Zoe (a terrier), puff into sight (their days are spent trying to keep up with Sonya in this vast garden), Sonya explains that she has had a lot of help here. The wrought iron features (such as the top of a magnificent sandstone Grecian dome that dominates the western garden) are custom made by John Bidgood. The stone paving and edging, as well as the features, follies and foibles that appear throughout, are crafted by Roy Brunner. Jenny Josey from Dalby Landscapes regularly works in the garden, and Peter Evans mows and trims. Sonya, it seems, the only woman in an all-male farming household, works unceasingly. “It’s my haven,” she says. “You have to love a garden, don’t you?”
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters