Oakland in Tenterfield has long been a sanctuary for garden lovers, and when its owners opened their garden to visitors four years ago, they had no idea where it would lead.

Today, as a steady stream of ‘pilgrims’ arrive from all over the region … some to wander, others to swap gardening stories or simply smell the roses … Oakland seems to have taken on a life of its own. Fortunately, the evolution from home garden to ‘garden showcase’ has been gradual and enjoyable for owners Mandy Reid and husband Hamish. When they moved to the eastern outskirts of Tenterfield 15 years ago, there was little to inspire them. With just a few she oaks and fruit trees on the boundaries, their dream of an English-style country garden seemed highly ambitious.

But the Reids have never shirked a bit of hard work and Mandy’s dream was irrepressible. As they put down the bones of the garden – columns of conifer, hedges of legustrum and buxus and a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs – the vision slowly emerged. And as stands of silver birch, groves of camellia and rose arbours matured so did masses of perennials and dramatic displays of English pots and annuals. Soon friends were dropping in to admire their work … bringing more friends … staying for a cup of tea … and Oakland was transformed into one of Tenterfield’s favourite destinations for garden lovers.

As visitors increased and the need arose, Hamish converted Mandy’s potting shed into a quaint English-style cottage. They added some furniture – bits and pieces Mandy has collected over the years – some pretty china and some special pieces from local auctions. As visitors settled in for a chat, they wondered whether any of the furniture was for sale. Or the china. Or the rose vases! It was not until Hamish suggested it might be a good idea to part with a few things that Mandy realised they should get serious about introducing antiques into the Oakland garden experience.

The pivotal point for change was a trip to the UK last year. Mandy and Hamish had planned a grand tour of the famous English gardens and a quick trip to the Chelsea Garden Show. As it turned out, they hired a car and did a thorough search of the English countryside looking for antiques and rustic pieces to send home. One container load of treasures turned into two and within a few months White Cottage Antiques was up and running

Now with Oakland in full bloom and White Cottage thriving, Mandy is planning another trip to Europe in Autumn, this time to check out the antique fairs in France. Her greatest fear – that she might not have enough time to spend in her own garden – has been put to rest. These days when she is in the cottage chatting to customers she is never far from the garden. And when people ask for a bit of advice she is always happy to put on her gardening hat and pick up the secateurs.

Words by Lynne Parsonage  |  Images by Daniel Groneberg