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Darriveen Station's outback garden oasis 56 years in the making

Friday August 6, 2021 - 00:43 EST
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This metal frame arch is one of the last remaining reminders of where the first fence was, when Tony's parents bought Darriveen in 1950. - ABC

In the 56 years of their marriage, Tony and Jan Hetherington have moved their garden fence twice to accommodate their ever-expanding garden.

It's a true outback oasis in the middle of drought-ravaged western Queensland.

"It really gives you so much pleasure to just be in it," Jan said.

"I guess that's what it's all about ? to come and see greenery around you when outside you've got the awful drought.

"I don't know anybody who could live without some garden."

The yard can be seen far off on the horizon thanks to the pops of colour that come with 300 bougainvillea trees they've planted in their time at Darriveen.

Tony Hetherington grew up on the property, between Longreach and Muttaburra in western Queensland, and has seen it through many changes.

But it wasn't until after he'd married Jan and they'd had their five children that its garden really began to transform.

Gardening in their genes

When Tony's parents bought Darriveen in 1950, its garden looked nothing like it does today.

Jan and Tony took over the property in 1963, and Jan said, with five kids, she didn't have a lot of time for gardening, so merely "kept it going".

But, as time went on and the kids grew up, Jan said she spent more and more time working in the garden.

"I really got enthralled in it," she said.

"I suppose I got crazy about it in 1986 and I just started planting.

"My mother-in-law was a very keen gardener and so were my parents, so I had it in my genes."

Jan got Tony involved with her projects as much as possible, with him having a hand in many of the structures throughout the garden.

"I love it," Tony said.

"I suppose having parents who were pretty keen and who always made it pretty interesting for me ? I love making different things in the garden.

"She's kept me very busy ? every time I think 'that's the end of it', she'll come up with another suggestion and away it will go again."

"I've got to keep you occupied ? don't want to rust out," Jan replied.

Creating an oasis through years of drought

Over the years, Jan and Tony have moved the yard fence twice to make a bigger garden.

It's been a labour of love for more than half a century, but it's had its fair share of tough times too.

Through prolonged periods of drought, Darriveen has run out of water twice since Jan and Tony took over.

While there's bore water to fall back on, it's not ideal for the garden as the water is harsher on the plants.

"The first time we ran out for about three months," Jan said.

"We got a desalinator and that saved our garden."

While a desalinator was the saving grace for their garden, the garden was a saving grace for Tony and Jan, particularly in the worst years of drought.

"It's just lovely to come home when you're out in the paddock and it's so dry," Jan said.

"So to come home and see the garden and the colour, it's rewarding, relaxing and peaceful."

For Jan and Tony, their garden is their escape and they often have no desire to be anywhere else.

"You've got to love where you live," Tony said.

"If you don't enjoy what you do then it's a pretty hard life because you're just waiting for that time when you can get away ? we've never been like that."


© ABC 2021

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