‘Still Water’ is a beautiful, sprawling country garden built around towering natural red gum trees. Originally designed by Mary Skene-Kidman in 1959, the older parts of the garden strongly reflect her plant selections, colour schemes and garden design – with Edna Walling influences at play in The Shrubbery.
The present custodians and owners are Rick Paltridge and Cathy Hughes and together they have each impacted the evolving garden in very personal ways; imbuing it with highly autobiographical elements.
Rick’s knowledge of the works of Frank Lloyd-Wright - the renowned 20th century American architect, is skilfully exemplified in various stonewall creations throughout the garden, including a stunning entertainment and courtyard space known as The Pavillion.
Cathy has converted the original mass iris plantings and rose plantings into two connected perennial borders as a way of adding colour, texture and interest.
Other appealing features of the garden include: two connected wetland areas designed to help support the native ecosystem of birds, insects and wildlife; garden sculptures all created by Rick; a small commercial quince orchard with all 16 varieties of quince trees known in Australia; and a dozen peacocks that roam freely.
Cathy and Rick established the Quince HQ orchard on ‘Still Water’ in 2013. Its genesis was born of curiosity about the varieties of quinces available in Australia.
All the quince trees have been sourced from three specialist heritage fruit tree nurseries, are grafted onto dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstock, and grow to about 2-3m high/wide rather than the standard 4-5m high. Trees of each variety are espaliered along a simple three-tiered trellis row.
Deciduous in nature, quince trees are self-fertile so don’t require another quince tree to flourish and fruit, though our yields benefit from cross-fertilization … and native bees too!
The orchard is in an open sunny position and fully netted to keep larger birdlife at bay. Smaller birds skitter through the lower netting, working in unchoreographed unison with two ducks – that live permanently in the orchard, to help keep the unhelpful bugs under check.
The orchard is sustainably managed with low intervention practices to maintain plant wellbeing, soil health and fruit productivity. Winter and summer pruning are now part of the routine.
Visiting the orchard reveals the differences between varieties. Some trees are clearly strong growers, with large leaves, thick trunks and over-sized green-yellow fruit; while others are characteristically smaller but just as robust, producing smooth round, velvety-golden quinces.