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  • Lucy Carter

Flo's Place - Inglebrae Farm

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Flo Evison's garden is not the kind of garden you forget. Nestled under an embankment at the top of a hill, Flo's place is virtually hidden from the rugged dirt road that leads to her gate. Situated on 80 hectares of rolling farmland at the foot of Cambewarra Mountain, as you drive through the entryway to Flo's place, you are greeted by panoramic views of the surrounding farmland and mountain, framed by Flo's thoughtfully designed garden.

The surrounding landscape is framed by Flo's thoughtfully designed garden

Flo and her late husband, John, built at Inglebrae farm in 1995, however the couple’s roots in Cambewarra go back much further than that. A fourth-generation dairy farmer, John’s family have farmed in the region since 1857.

Flo Evison

Flo’s cottage sits in the middle of the plot. A generous sandstone verandah wraps around it on all sides. An eclectic assortment of cane chairs, benches and other antiques have been effortlessly arranged along its length. Flo’s love of antiques has carried into her garden. Scattered throughout, is a carefully curated collection of pots, sculptures and found objects which add an element of whimsy to the overall garden design.

We are seated on the south-east side of the verandah, which overlooks a cottage-style garden, featuring old fashioned roses, salvias, jonquils, and ornamental maples. Glimpses of farmland peak through the layered planting. To the north, elegant hedges of buxus and camelias showcase a lush green lawn. Around the perimeter of the lawn, trees and shrubs have been thoughtfully positioned to create a series of windows revealing the landscape beyond.

“I’ve always been interested in gardening,” Flo tells me. “My dad was a great gardener. My sisters and I helped him in the garden a lot. We would gather leaves under the trees for him to rot down and put on the garden. He had a big half drum, and he would make soil tonics out of our kitchen scraps, lime, chook manure and whatever other organic matter we had. We always had lovely fruit trees and veggies.”

The further I explore Flo’s garden, the more difficult it is to believe that when Flo and John first built here, there was no established garden. This garden is not the first garden that Flo has started from scratch. In 1956, the couple built their first home on an acre plot adjacent to their farm in nearby Bangalee, where they raised their children, Steven, and Wendy.

For Flo, the move to Inglebrae was bittersweet. While she was tremendously excited at the prospect of designing another garden, it was also difficult to leave her garden in Bangalee behind. Flo recalls being so eager to get started on her garden that while the cottage was being built, she would climb up the embankment to transplant cuttings and plants from her Bangalee garden, much to the amusement of the construction workers below.

The couple planted agapanthus to stabilise the soil

The first challenge when establishing the garden at Inglebrae, was providing stability along the embankment to prevent soil erosion. Flo opted for a planting of agapanthus for their deep root systems. “Eventually,” Flo laughs, “the cows ended up eating them. But by that point there was plenty of grass and other plant life to hold the bank in place.” Nowadays, the embankment (which forms the north-western boundary of the garden), is overflowing with rambling jasmine, rudbeckia, daisies, and geraniums.

“The soil here is just wonderful,” says Flo. “You put something in and it just goes mad.”

Flo planned the layout of the garden, while John built borders around the garden beds using reclaimed sandstone from the farm. The planting took place more gradually, and the garden has transformed and evolved as it has matured. For Flo, the garden provides a space for unbounded artistic expression, a place where she can freely experiment with design and architecture through the medium of plants. In recent years, gardening as a creative outlet has become even more important for her, as her declining eyesight has forced her to give up some of her other creative pursuits such as sewing and embroidery.

The south-east side of the garden in its early stages of development

As we wander around to the south-western side of the garden, a sandstone path bordered by lavender leads to a rustic outdoor cooking area complete with an antique wood-burning stove. Towering turpentine trees from the adjacent bushland filter the afternoon sunlight, giving this corner of the garden an ethereal quality.

Flo is a firm believer in the importance of gardening for well-being.

“There’s tremendous benefits to gardening health wise,” she says. “Exercise for one thing, but gardening is also really beneficial if you are feeling down or depressed. To have a garden to look forward to go and look at.

It gives you hope somehow when you see things growing. You’re always looking ahead to see what’s coming up or fruiting or growing. So much goes into it to keep your mind occupied.”

At 87 years of age, Flo is not one to sit still and let life pass her by. Often to be found with her hands in the soil, cultivating, propagating, composing and rearranging, the symphony of Flo’s garden continues to unfold.

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