Artist's citrus garden a masterpiece too

Susan Parsons
Margaret Dimoff with a basket of citrus, particularly tangelos, harvested from her South Coast garden.
Margaret Dimoff with a basket of citrus, particularly tangelos, harvested from her South Coast garden. Photo: Jay Cronan

In mid-winter, most Canberra gardeners can only daydream about picking their own tangelos, but for Margaret Dimoff it became a reality - if not in Canberra, at least not so far away.

Dimoff lived in Canberra for a decade from 1982 and her garden at National Circuit, Forrest, won the Horticultural Society of Canberra's ''garden of the year'' award two years running. Their first garden in Torrens also won accolades, gaining second place in a Canberra Times garden of the year competition.

Twenty-five years ago, Dimoff and husband Warren Dimoff started planting fruit trees on their farm at the South Coast. Called Pretty View, the property is on the western side of the Princes Highway at Tuross and it overlooks two lakes, the hills and the ocean. The area inspires Dimoff's art.

Her abstract paintings cover the walls of her gallery in Deakin, where we meet over a basket of her home-grown South Coast citrus. The formal house gardens cover about half a hectare. A feature is a magnificent dam, with water lilies, water iris and a jetty.

The couple started growing vegetables partly because they live some distance from the shops, but they also buy from the Moruya produce markets and from green grocers in Moruya. They raise cattle for beef, with a herd of 22 hereford and black poll breeders, and the manure keeps the garden supplied with fertiliser.

Dimoff says the best tool in her garden is a Bosch Keo garden saw, which is rechargeable, and especially good for pruning large citrus branches.

At Pretty View, they have grown unusual fruit, including flat white-fleshed peaches, nashi pears and persimmons. They have a citrus orchard of lime and kaffir lime trees, three varieties of oranges, grapefruit, lemon, a magnificent mandarin and a tangelo that is three metres tall. Tangelos are a hybrid between mandarins and grapefruit or pomelo.

The tangy Minneola tangelo, developed in Florida, is a cross between Dancy mandarin and Duncan grapefruit and has a red-orange colour. Tangelos are difficult to peel and most have lots of seeds. Dimoff makes marmalade from her citrus trees and the family drinks the tangelo juice.

>>The Margaret Dimoff Art Gallery, formerly the Solander Gallery, is at 38 Grey Street, Deakin, and open Friday to Sunday.

>>Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.