The dusty road that leads towards Trafalgar at Dirranbandi gives no indication of the verdant oasis that lies beyond the property’s front gate.
On the banks of the Balonne Minor River, five kilometres from Dirranbandi, is the parkland garden of Jonathan and Kathy Burrell. The couple moved to the property in 1997 and took on the ambitious project of renovating their homestead and developing a large sprawling garden, whilst growing their agronomy business and their cattle and cotton operation. At the time, the couple’s children were aged one, three and four years old. Jonathan and Kathy applied the same hardworking gusto that they apply in all aspects of their lives to the development of the parkland. Today the result is 10 acres of garden that is a testament to their vision and passion for creating beautiful surrounds. The first job was to clear some of the native vegetation growing around the house, to make room for the garden. Numerous large native trees were retained, including river red gums, western tea trees and coolabahs which now define the garden’s structure. Each part of the garden forms a type of garden room with the intent that you cannot be seen from any other aspect of the garden, creating a sense of fun and adventure for those enjoying the surrounds.
Kathy reflects that she did wonder about the enormity of the project. “I remember thinking, ‘what have we done’,” laughs Kathy. “One of the first things to go in was the sandpit for the kids; we would sit on the verandah and watch them play, while we planned out how the garden would take shape,” adds Jonathan who has designed much of the garden’s layout. Jonathan and Kathy are both trained agronomists and the pair applied their knowledge of soil and plant health in the selection of varieties that are drought and frost tolerant. Sixteen years later, the mature garden has its own micro-environment and in one very dry period the garden survived without being watered for 10 weeks. The front section of the garden is divided by a formal entrance of weeping mulberries featuring a water fountain as the focal point.
The addition of a pond adds a cooling effect and a place for the ducks and peacocks to water, with a wooden arched bridge allowing access to a small island. A magnificent poinciana tree is a feature on the western side of the garden and is flanked by a sweeping line of cottonwoods underplanted by liriope. Gentle curving beds divide the garden that is peppered with interesting features. Most of the outdoor structures have been made by Jonathan with the help of his workmen, including the wooden bridge where the timber was bent by hand and the three arbours by the riverside. Other planted tree species include Portugese elms, Chinese elms, jacarandas, claret ash, gleditsia and shrubs such as durantas, hibiscus, bougainvillea and many bush as well as many palm species. Jonathan is modest about the garden and its spectacular dimensions. “Gardens evolve and take course, we move plants when new shade areas develop … it’s a dynamic process and we just work with what happens.”
Words by Kerryn Suttor | Images by Amanda Waterman