When Kevin Roberts of Irvingdale made the decision in 2001 to walk for an hour each morning, it was the beginning of more than just a healthy lifestyle.
Kevin and his wife Jan had already decided to build their dream home somewhere on a bald hill on their property Square Mile, adjacent to Sandalwood Feedlot, a partnership concern which the family manages. “The coolabah tree up there kept pulling us,” says Kevin. Their set date for building was 2006. The exact site was still to be determined.
One fateful morning in September 2001, Kevin reached the top of the hill just as the sun winked at him in that magic instant known only by the avid early bird. One flash and it was over – the sun was up and Kevin was running down the hill, calling to Jan, “We’re starting building today!”
Their new home grew on the solid bedrock of the Square Mile hill, with a view down to the feedlot in the near distance, the Bunya Mountains a silhouette on the horizon. Thirteen months later they moved in.
Their garden grew around them. The blue-metal bedrock that so suited the house site was not exactly conducive to plant growth. That’s where the feedlot came in. More than 5000 tonnes of soil and manure have been carted and deposited with carefully contrived artistry to establish the six hectare Square Mile ‘easy-care’ garden (or as Jan says, ‘parkland’).
First a swathe of couch lawn grew unhesitatingly on the wide, gentle slope placed up to 1.5 metres deep around the house’s perimeter. Then mounds were constructed for the banks of shrubs and trees that flourish in large colourful plantings the length and breadth of the expansive garden, all the way down to the entrance avenue with its multi-coloured hedge of the much-maligned but beautiful oleanders.
Like Kevin’s original vision of the Sandalwood Feedlot, which he established for its then owners in 1986, there was a firm philosophy behind the enormous garden’s evolution. It is more of a peaceful way of life than a millstone around their necks. There are no flower beds with annuals requiring attention. While it is a place of beauty, with its gazebo inviting a stunning view for entertaining and relaxation, it is also a place of wide lawn spaces for dogs and grandchildren, ballgames and play.
The native birds love the shrubbery, whip-tailed wallabies graze on the lawn, and the 2500 Chinchilla white gums in two adjacent forest plantings are already providing home and sustenance for koalas. Even the bossy and busy little willy wagtail couple that has taken up residence under the front verandah rafters, raising several families there, and overly possessive of the entire space, has its niche in the symbiotic scheme of things (apart from annoying Jan by decorating the verandah furniture with copious amounts of willy wagtail droppings).
Like Topsy’s snowball, this garden has grown and grown. But true to the vision of its creators, it remains a place of enjoyment and not a burden to its owners.
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters