Kitchen garden

Denham Williams harvesting climbing beans in the vegetable patch at Mia Mia.
Denham Williams harvesting climbing beans in the vegetable patch at Mia Mia. Photo: Elaine Lawson

Susan Parsons

There is something about the Monaro with its peaks and plains. And we are invited to visit three of its properties on Saturday, April 5, for the Nimmitabel and District Garden Club's autumn outing.

Some friends and I headed south recently for a preview. From the poplars and gourmet store of Bredbo, we drove past rows of vegetables growing on the Murrumbidgee river flats, paddocks filled with lichen-covered rocks and through Cooma to Nimmitabel.

The first stop was Richard and Elaine Lawson's garden at Erindale, their hillside property that overlooks the Tom Groggin Valley. On the open day, morning and afternoon tea will be served in a shrub-embowered nook beside the house and visitors can wander in the garden with its old roses, mounds of silver plants, trees in autumnal livery and interesting sculptures. Vegetables are grown in large, old round tanks in February and a pair of hens laid the prize-winning six brown eggs at the Nimmitabel Show.

Rhubarb chutney and fresh rhubarb in the country kitchen at Mia Mia.
Rhubarb chutney and fresh rhubarb in the country kitchen at Mia Mia. Photo: Elaine Lawson

Jams, jellies, chutneys and bottled fruits made by members of the garden club can be purchased at Erindale and garden furniture will be for sale. At Jim and Sue Jardine's property Curry Flat, just 10 minutes from Erindale by car, a boxed lunch will be served. Locally grown plants from members' gardens will be on sale, as will garden adornments by Shades of Grey from Castlemaine.

The homestead verandah, designed in 1899 and rebuilt after fire in 1930, is one of the most welcoming in the Monaro region. Sue Jardine, who studied horticulture, has planted avenues of trees and herbaceous plants chosen for the cold climate.

In a local farmer's ute, I was taken to visit the garden of John Rose and Denham Williams. The driveway into the property runs between paddocks where horses graze and we spied a hare dashing into the distance. Formal plantings near the house and broad steps built by Pete Loydell of Nimmitabel lead to a sunken courtyard where morning and afternoon tea will be served. Williams has been growing the best rhubarb in the district for the past six years. She says it came from a friend in Guyra and makes beautiful chutney with granny smith apples from her orchard, cider vinegar, red onions and chillies.

Six prize winning brown eggs from Elaine Lawson's property "Erindale" at Nimmitabel.
Six prize winning brown eggs from Elaine Lawson's property "Erindale" at Nimmitabel.

A large vegetable patch is filled with zucchini, beans, carrots and parsnips that were sown in early spring and will be harvested after the first frosts. Garden beds are enriched with lucerne hay and local mulch, so broad beans and pumpkins flourish beside a young asparagus patch. In the adjoining paddocks a herd of 150 Angus breeding cattle are responsible for the large cowpats that adorn the vegie beds. Land agriculture is Williams's passion and, for the past 12 years, she has been running field trials in the district through a research and development consultancy. She tests pharmaceutical products used for wormy sheep and flukey cattle and does pen trials on blowflies and lice.

Williams and Rose each have their own sheds. There is a Land Rover and a ride-on lawnmower in his shed but hers forms the backdrop to an espaliered beurre bosc pear tree. Wonderful dry- stone walls, built three years ago by stonemason Trad Rankin, mark the way to a lawn with specimen trees planted by the original owners - birches, redwoods, sycamores, maples, rowans and fruiting plums. The eye is taken to a majestic remnant eucalyptus viminalis that dominates the view from the main garden.

A berry trellis is covered with boysenberries, loganberries, thornless blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries that are made into jam, which will be for sale, as well as plants from the Tablelands Nursery and garden sculptures.

Bookings are essential for the autumn outing in Nimmitabel. Phone Sue Jardine on 6454 6210 or Marie Hampson on 6454 6428. The cost is $30, including entry to the three gardens, lunch, morning and afternoon tea. Addresses, maps and times of opening will be provided at the time of booking.

>> Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.