Kitchen Garden

Di Cuthbertson's home and garden in Murrumbateman.
Di Cuthbertson's home and garden in Murrumbateman. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

The road into the Wattle Flat property near Murrumbateman winds through majestic red gum and yellow box woodland and the driveway is lined with an orchard of 80-year-old apple, pear and plum trees. The trees still produce fruit, although the local birds raid the crops.

On Sunday, November 3, the garden will be open to visitors for Classic Yass, a fundraiser organised by Yass Red Cross. Members will be served tea and coffee and light lunches at a long table under an imposing pergola covered in mauve and white wisteria. A weeping willow, its green tresses touching the ground, completes the setting, with croquet court and clubhouse. An eroded gully on the eastern boundary was converted to a lagoon with island in 1991 and boulder-lined steps lead to an area overlooking the water.

The glorious garden, enclosed by a hedge of double may, is an oasis of green lawns. 

Wattle Flat was settled in 1926 by Mervyn Wilson, a stockman who worked for the owner of Jeir Station, George Johnston. It was the Wilsons who established the orchard and they also planted a pecan tree and fig trees that still produce large, late crops.

Fruits of labour ... Di Cuthbertson in her vegetable garden.
Fruits of labour ... Di Cuthbertson in her vegetable garden. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

When Sandy and Dianne Cuthbertson made Wattle Flat their home in 1972, they used a bore put down 10 years earlier. But the house was dilapidated, with no electricity or water. The couple's daughters, Eve Cuthbertson and Felicity Ford, and their son, Edward Cuthbertson, were raised on the property and three generations live there now: Dianne Cuthbertson, Eve Cuthbertson and her partner Nick Leah, and their two young sons.

The glorious garden, enclosed by a hedge of double may, is an oasis of green lawns, shady corners and red tulips among ribbons of groundcover. Trees planted by the Cuthbertsons over the decades tower above and enclose the original house, which has been completely retained but expanded on all sides and on top as well.

They bought 7000 old sandstock bricks in 1989 and used them to build flowing brick walls and secluded paved areas. They kept an original bush pole shed and built new outbuildings, including a sewing room for Dianne Cuthbertson. With a piano, banqueting table, old books and a loft, it will provide the space for a fashion parade at noon on Sunday, with clothes from Yass boutiques.

Di Cuthbertson's home and garden in Murrumbateman.
Di Cuthbertson's home and garden in Murrumbateman. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

There will also be food and craft stalls, cooking demonstrations and woollen/alpaca products for sale.

Dianne Cuthbertson has a large vegetable garden with a series of raised beds. One is devoted to asparagus, and spring crops include rhubarb, lettuces, silver beet, beetroot, eschalots, snowpeas, tarragon, white Spanish onions, leeks, garlic and carrots. She is planting out one row of corn every week so the crop will be staggered in production.

The area gets fairly severe frosts so a wheelbarrow filled with three varieties of potted tomatoes, cucumber and zucchini seedlings was put under cover at night before late October planting. Chrysanthemums line the fence of the kitchen garden but the angus-murray grey cows in the adjoining paddock broke part of the electric fence and ate the tops off all the ornamentals.

Eve Cuthbertson with her son Syd, 20 months, in her mother's vegetable garden in Murrumbateman.
Eve Cuthbertson with her son Syd, 20 months, in her mother's vegetable garden in Murrumbateman. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

>> Wattle Flat is open on Sunday, November 3, 10am to 4pm, 2624 Barton Highway, Murrumbateman; $10, which also covers entry to gardens at Dundoos, 149 Murrumbateman Road, and Old Linton, Glebe Street, Yass.

>> Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.