The two historic Downs gardens, Balgowrie near Pittsworth and Cowarrie at Southbrook, are testament to the beauty of Queensland’s countryside and will be open for viewing on April 6 and 7.

Cowarrie Homestead is located west of Toowoomba in the small valley of Southbrook where the lovely old homestead has stood for more than 100 years. George Bridgman discovered this part of Queensland when he camped here with a large flock of sheep he was taking to North Queensland. The scenery was watered by the beautiful spring-fed Hodgson Creek. George fell in love with the valley and in 1905 he returned, purchased it and named it Cowarrie.

From 1905, Cowarrie has seen momentous occasions such as when  Mrs Droney, whose husband worked on the property, gave birth to triplets. Nowadays, the living areas and entertainment verandahs of Cowarrie Homestead face east to the view and morning sun. Divided front steps lead down to a large front lawn with a circular parterre garden of Japanese box leading down to the tennis court edged in iceberg roses. Oleanders, long sweeping banks of shrubs, hedges of the early China mutabilis rose and perennials make a pretty mix in an early century country homestead garden. The courtyard is adorned with huge jacarandas which provide welcome shade from the severe Summer sun. After many years of living in Central Queensland, Sam and Louise Staines have turned Cowarrie into a country haven of entertainment and pure enjoyment.

Balgowrie, a beautiful property south of Pittsworth, was once the home of William Hogarth who took it up and named it Balgowrie after a 14th Century bridge on the River Dee. In 1975, William and his wife built their first home here for their 11 children to overlook the plains of Felton South. After a second and more substantial house was built in the same spot, Les Hogarth built a third house further up the hill which still stands at the top of the garden today.

The place also has a shearing shed which was built between 1867 and 1874. At the time, all the beams were skilfully cut by hand with an adze. It is estimated that up to 20,000 sheep were run and shorn at the Balgowrie shed.

The present garden, now owned by the Rylance family of Brisbane, suits the area beautifully. The circular drive has two huge hoop pines with a Bunya pine growing well in the centre. There is still a large rambling forgotten bed of old yellow jasminum fruticans growing. Bougainvillea rosenka tumbles over a stone wall as welcoming colour behind a blue plumbago hedge leading to an arbour of the rose crepuscule. A huge belah dominates but a grey westringia and a large rose garden fills the main area. Leading down to the woolshed there is an abundance of crabapple ioensis plena backed by the deep green viburnum suspension.

Visit these two historic sites during the Australian Open Gardens on the first weekend of April 2013.

Words by Penny McKinlay  |  Images by Belinda McKinlay