Anna Price-Adair's Western Downs Garden

Anna Price-Adair has created a garden on the very hot QLD Western Downs, from virtually nothing. Overtime she has added lots of colour and trees to create a beautiful oasis. Anna also takes the most stunning images, which we have used. Read her story and you can also follow her garden and rural life on instagram

Can you tell me a bit about your garden?  How long since you started the garden?

My husband and I married in 2009 and that’s when I moved here to the family farm, 30kms south of Tara on the Western Downs in Queensland.  My husband built our house in the late 90’s and when I arrived, with the exception of one stunted macadamia tree, there was no garden, with only natives like wilgas, brigalow and belah trees growing up around the house.

My first beds were along the back and the front of the house, with mostly roses and a few annuals. The garden didn’t really get going until we put up the garden fence in 2015, but even then, it took me a few years to discover what I liked and what I wanted our garden to be.

Today, the garden is 1.5 acres with large curved beds full of perennials like salvias, ornamental grasses, asters, verbena bonariensis, achilleas, roses, Agastache, shrubs like Smoke Bush, Maybush, lilac and Buddleia.  There is a purely native area where we have about 20 or so varieties of grevillea and callistemon, planted densely to encourage birdlife.  We have many other trees dotted throughout the rest of the garden, along the driveway and just over the garden fence, varieties include English Elm, English Oak, Cottonwood Poplar, Crepe Myrtle (Tuscarora), Liquid Amber, Pink Albizia, Qld Box, Chinese Elm, Claret Ash, Crabapple, Desert Ash, Bottle Tree, Celtis and Tipuana.  In 2020 we built a vegetable garden, raised timber beds made with leftover iron bark timber from the garden fence.  And we have recently started an orchard in another area outside the main garden.

Really, it’s a very immature garden but every year it’s looking more and more established.

What do you love most about it?

I love the way the garden is evolving, seeing the changes and growth season to season and year to year, and seeing hard work pay off.

I love the abundance of birds and insects that the garden has attracted.

I love that when you walk through the front gate, no matter how dry it is outside the garden, inside there is always a little bit of green.

What are your favourite plants?

So many….

Ornamental grasses are wonderful for adding texture and movement.  I can’t imagine my garden without Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’.

Perennials like Russian sage, eupatorium, sedum, achillea and echinacea.

Deciduous trees and the way they change through the seasons.

Any plant that self seeds is a winner.

What feel does the garden have?

It changes through the seasons and even the time of day.  When there is a lot of colour, it has a rambling cottage garden feel, less colour and it feels more naturalistic.  It’s always very relaxed.

Key challenges? How have you overcome some of the challenges?

Soil: the soil in the garden changes from one area to the next, some parts are rocky and dry, other areas are black soil and some areas have heavy clay.  For the first couple of beds, my husband brought in loads of beautiful soil out of a paddock that had previously grown grain crops.  That didn’t work.  Now, new beds are lasagne beds built with multiple layers of fertiliser, compost, lucernce, aged manure, sugar cane and 100% no dig.  The soil in these beds is fertile and rich and, most importantly, it really holds the water.   

Heat: We have 50+ days a year above 35C and 10+ days a year above 40C.  the heat is becoming less of an issue as the trees become more established and provide some shade at different times of the day.  The heat in the veggie garden was a huge challenge.  My husband designed and built a shade structure to get around this, the veggie garden now gets morning and afternoon sun and filtered sun during the hottest part of the day.

Water: We have a large dam for garden water and, while we didn’t run out of water in the 2019 drought, I still try to conserve water wherever possible.  Good soil, drippers and mulch are key.

What plants do best in your climate?

As long as they are hydrated, most of the perennials I’ve mentioned do well.  The ornamental grasses do particularly well and seem to handle the heat and even a missed watering.

Roses love it here.  They love the heat and the humidity is low so there’s not much disease.

What’s your summer water regime?

The beds have drippers and I usually run those at night, every third night or so, dependant on the weather and temperatures.  When the temperature hits 35C, I might also put wobble t sprinklers on as well just to reduce the temperature mid afternoon.  The wobble t’s deliver enough water to cool things down without flooding.

There isn’t a watering system on the trees yet.  After their first year though, trees are watered once or twice every 10 days or so, dependant on temperatures.

Any words of wisdom?

  • Keep a perpetual garden diary/calendar with things like first and last frost, rainfall and temperatures, when to plant your bulbs or veggie seeds etc. It will allow for better planning and fewer mistakes going forward.
  • Not only does it save a lot of money, it’s very satisfying.
  • Find inspiration. My parents had a beautiful garden on the farm I grew up on south of Tamworth, next to Goonoo Goonoo Creek.  They had about 300 roses, a secret garden, a veggie garden, an orchard and a summer house.  They now have a smaller garden full of roses and perennials.

The first garden I found on Instagram that really inspired me was @hopewood_home.   Susan doesn’t live too far from me and I saw plants growing beautifully in her garden that I didn’t think I would grow in our climate.

While there are a lot of incredible gardens in England and elsewhere, I really can’t go past the Australian gardens for the best inspo.









And, of course, Gin Gin Garden Club.


Basic info

Location – 30km south of Tara, Western Downs, Qld.

Soil type – varies throughout the garden

Water source – dam

Average yearly rainfall – 22.5 inches