Time was, a good old country garden consisted of a line of pepperina or athol trees, a bank of oleanders with some gazanias clinging gamely to the dry soil underneath them, and some stringy, dusty geraniums out the back.
That was before water storage, mechanisation, and Rob and Jay Parker’s Hayfields garden at Dalby. Rob and Jay bought Hayfields a mere 10 years ago. Farmers, they came from Westmar, bringing with them a culture of hard work, efficiency and substantial gardens – from both sides of the family. But somehow it’s all got a bit out of hand at Hayfields.
It started with the wind across the dead-flat blacksoil Darling Downs plains. That, plus 320 degrees of never-ending flat horizon, which they felt needed some re-arranging. Neither heat nor frost is mellow on the Downs, as any gardener can attest, and they needed protection. So, not being people to do things by halves, once they had cleaned up the first acreage for their ever-evolving dream garden (this took them the better part of 18 months), they laid out metres and metres of garden hose as the outline for the beds. And then set about planting over a thousand trees. After which they had their buffer – and a slender view of the Bunya Mountains from the verandah corner where they sit (insofar as they must actually sit down sometimes) and relax.
Farmer Rob is the number one gardener, with green thumbs like his wife Jay’s. Jay works full-time as a propagator at Ausplant Nursery, a Dalby wholesale plant business. She brings home and tests their huge variety of propagated plants, including standard natives of all descriptions. These are all in evidence as the median story for this forest wonderland, while banks of one-colour annuals provide sudden surprises as each new vista comes into view.
Rob will be the first to tell you that he has a tiger by the tail in his perfect ‘country’ garden; it keeps him busy (and happy) for several days a week. Although Jay protests that they are behind with their maintenance, to the uncritical eye, there is not a thing out of place; Rob has everything ship-shape and the result is breathtaking – perfectly-clipped hedges, some two-deep. A huge, healthy, flourishing garden, it bespeaks an enormous expenditure of joint energy from these two.
The fact that there was no sign of crowd invasion the day after 700 people had traipsed through the garden for the Open Garden Scheme is testament to planning which includes hardy kikuyu lawns and the use of fine gravel on paths and garden bed buffers.
A purpose-built dam (the rest of the farm is dryland farming) has ensured a never-ending water supply to replace a very inadequate bore. An automated sprinkler system, careful initial bed preparation, protective planting, lots of hard work and mulch, mulch and more mulch combine to create the lush and luxuriant garden which is the joy of Hayfields.
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters