Jane Duddy's Liverpool Plains Garden

Over the last 30 years, Jane and Scott Duddy have created a beautiful garden from scratch on the Liverpool Plains of NSW. The garden is an important part of their life on the land and is full of memories. Be prepared to be inspired by Jane’s honest and candid words and spectacular garden.

Tell me a little about yourself…

My husband’s family celebrate 100 years on the Liverpool Plains this year, and I have been lucky enough to call it home for 30 of those. Having grown up on a dairy in the Hunter Valley, life on the land was not foreign to me.

 "Millers Creek Plains" is where Scott and I call home. A 3500 acre property nestled at the Southern end of the Great Dividing Range, and the beginning of the Liverpool Plains. We have 3 beautiful daughters who have sadly all left the nest. 

After leaving school I studied a Diploma of Horticulture/Landscape design so when I moved to Willow Tree I was presented with a blank paddock, a budding gardeners dream come true. And so, our garden was born. 

How would you describe the style of your garden?

It’s hard to describe the style of the garden in one way but I like to think of it somewhere between a formal English estate and classic country Australian garden. While there is a lot of formal structure in the parterre rose garden, manicured buxus hedges, and multiple feature sculptures, there is also a lot of rustic and natural growth in the mass planted garden beds and long stretches of native grasses. The scale of everything we do is large. The sweeping beds are large to balance out the sizable expanses of lawn.

How important is it to you to have a garden?

For me, a house is not a home without a garden. Creating and having a haven to retreat to from the elements and challenges of living on the land is very important not only for us, but for the native fauna. It was essential for us as a young family. We watched our girls grow up in this garden and I hope to one day watch them get married here too. Our garden is the heart of so many core family memories. It’s a challenge, a chore at times and sometimes a downright struggle but it is worth it beyond measure when you are able to enjoy it with your nearest and dearest. I’m now also at a time where I am able to share it with the greater gardening community through the magic of Instagram, which has been one of the most satisfying parts of all. To be able to share what works, what doesn’t, mistakes to avoid and tips and tricks with other rural gardeners has been such a treat. It’s the most positive and supportive community I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

Tell me a little bit about your garden.. Did you establish the garden? 

We started with a blank canvas 30 years ago. We built the house on the 20-acre plains grass paddock at the front of the property which we surrounded with an ironbark mortared post and rail fence. The internal garden is around 1.5 acres and the outer garden which consists of the orchard, lagoon and the vegetable area is just over 6 acres. I keep the entire 20-acre house paddock maintained at all times using a 6-foot toro ride on and a superior finishing 10' slasher. While it’s a lot of work (I enjoy mowing), it creates a beautiful park like effect.

What feel does the garden have?

If I had to describe the feel of our garden in 1 phrase it would be park-like. Each time Scott and I and our three daughters return home to "Millers Creek Plains" it is always a feeling of calm as we wind our way down the driveway lined with Chinese elms. After a couple of hundred meters, the towering avenue guides you past the vegetable garden, orchard and sweeping lagoon to the oasis that awaits inside the garden fence. Now that it’s a mature garden it’s got a beautiful, sheltered feel to it. Cool in summer but not so condensed that you lose the breeze. While it looks and feels very structural, there are moments of softness and wildness amongst the mass planted beds. 

Plants you use to achieve your style/Plants that perform well in your garden?

Our choice of plants came from observing what thrived in my late mother in law's gorgeous garden. Elms, Pears, Plums, Gleditsias, Crab Apples and Crepe myrtles are the back bones of our garden. Golden elms also do beautifully here once established. Below the canopy; buxus, Russian olive, xylosma, star jasmine, ornamental grape, roses and grasses such as dietes and liriope really thrive. 

What are your major challenges? How do you overcome some of your challenges?

Among the usual challenges most face with gardening, we have learnt to deal with the constants.

High Ph black soil (around 8.2) with a high moisture retention capacity, harsh winters of temperatures as low as -8 °C, huge frosts, strong southerly and north westerly winds and hot summers of 40°C plus. 

We enjoy the challenges, successes and failures that come with creating a garden.

Scott and I live by a two-year policy we call “grow or you go”. We only get so many years so we don’t have time to wonder if something will work. If it’s not thriving, it’s out with the old and in with the new. 

The garden is watered using bore water which is high in calcium and very hard. The bore water keeps things alive, but rain makes things thrive!

Are you happy with the garden? What would you change?

If I could go back in time, I would space the pine hedge further apart at 2.5m spacings instead of 1m, allowing them to grow into a more natural form. We planted them so densely as the house is relatively close to the road and we wanted a quick privacy screen that doubled as a wind break whilst creating structure and a microclimate. Over the years they have competed against each other and have become unable to support themselves, causing branches to weep and lodge at all angles. In the coming years we will sadly have to have them removed. In preparation for this I have planted a row of xylosma directly in front of the pines, and a row of eleagnus directly in front of that which will never be hedged. These are already well above fence height and will hopefully soften the blow when the pines come down!

Water source

Bore water- very hard!  High in Calcium

Soil type

High Ph black soil (around 8.2) with a high moisture retention capacity.

Who inspires you?

Designer Peter Fudge has always been my favourite.

Any words of wisdom?

Look next door! Observe closely the trees and plants that are successful in your area as you can be assured that everything else has been tried at some point in the past.

You may as well get ahead of the game with the successful plants.

Don't wait to start your garden just start somewhere. A rough overall idea on the back of an envelope is all you need to start planting. Gardens evolve over time so changes are inevitable. 2 year rule, " Grow or you Go!

And the best advice of all is to continually take photos to look back on and see how far you've come.