Over the weekend, we visited our friends Andrew and Alice at their farm at Watervale, in the Clare Valley (about 1.5 hours from Adelaide). The Clare region is now known as a food and wine destination; it abuts the world famous Barossa Valley which I wrote about a few posts ago here. Originally though, this area was all farm country, and Alice and Andrew now run the family property (they run Merino Sheep on it), which Andrew's family have farmed since around 1860.


I've written about visiting them for lunch before on the blog, but this time we were house guests for the weekend, along with another family, the Bs and their 3 children. That brought the total number of kids to 9, and adults to 6. But while we adults were outnumbered, we had a relatively quiet time without kids in sight - they literally disappeared outside to play and only returned hours later muddy and happy to eat before disappearing again.

We did the usual things you do in the country in Winter. There was a bonfire lunch in one of the paddocks.


We ate and drank every 2 hours it seemed, Alice is pretty good at turning out gourmet fare. All of my children managed to fall in the creek and get soggy feet and muddy legs at various points.... The kids visited the litter of new puppies and collected eggs from the chooks, did some go karting up the bumpy driveway, and rode around in the back of the Ute over bumpy farm roads.

Farm dog with Ute


The modern part in the back of the house with Pierre Frey covered window seats

The house wasn't lived in for around 10 years or so before they moved in, and it was still in a sort of Victorian era time warp. A renovation completed a few years ago has created a modern, light, bright and warm living area at the back of the house, while leaving the original formal rooms at the front untouched, with all their layers of family history.



Print room

My favourite room is the room that Alice put Mr AV and I into for the night - the print room. It's like sleeping in a World of Interiors Magazine photo shoot. It seems to have been decorated around 1890, and literally every surface has been covered by carefully cut out illustrations from English periodicals of that period.




There are a lot with pictures of the future King Edward and Queen Alexandra's wedding, pictures of Queen Victoria holding various babies being christened, horses, cats in bonnets, and various other things. Apparently no one is sure which family member originally did this, but it does seem to be the Victorian equivalent of the teenage girl's bedroom plastered with pictures of teen idols all over the walls.

The Billiard Room is also interesting, full of taxidermy and old books

My 6 year old said to the other boys "Lets get out of this room - it's really creepy"

and photos of various members of the Royal Family who stayed at the house in years past when they had come out to the colonies on tours.

The Duke of Windsor, circa 1920 when he was still Prince of Wales, unattached to Wallis, and highly eligible

As with most farms these days, Alice and Andrew have diversified their operations. Most farms like this in the past were mini villages, and were heavily reliant on large numbers of servants, management staff, and labourers to keep things going. Modern farming means that Andrew now does it all himself, with a bit of help from a casual labourer. This means that there are a lot of cottages and outbuildings that are no longer inhabited. After completing the renovation of one of the old cottages, they now have a thriving business with a self contained cottage called Hughes Park Cottage. It's quite separate from the house, so totally private, and is set amongst pretty rolling hills dotted with gum trees, and at this time of the year lots of little creeks with running water.


The other thing that they've recently started doing is to hire out the gardens against the house for Wedding receptions as a venue. Having attended their wedding 10 years ago, I can attest to this being an excellent venue for a memorable wedding with the marquee set up on the grassed terraces to the front of the house - the views are so pretty across the hills, and the house makes a stunning and very special backdrop with photographical opportunities galore on the property.



I thought it might be interesting for my overseas readers to have a little glimpse into an Australian style working farm. This farm house is definitely on the larger side I hasten to add, but it's a little glimpse into lives lived in the past, and country hospitality, working life and style today.


So, here is a little promo for my friends. Alice is a consummate hostess, and a very stylish city girl now living in the country. The cottage is beautifully furnished in a quintessential South Australian country style

Hughes Park Cottage

and for weddings, should you be thinking along those lines, this is a link to all the information on them

Hughes Park Weddings

I'm pretty sure after having 10 houseguests for the weekend, Alice is still trying to catch up this week, so thank you Al, we absolutely loved staying with you.


I was meaning to do a post on Autumn in my garden... but then things got away from me and the photos languished. Having spent most of this past weekend in the garden, I thought I'd take photos of it in its current, skeletal and dormant Winter state... and record it for posterity before Spring hits in just a few short weeks.


So rewinding to Autumn, here is the back corner of the garden in the late afternoon sun, the Manchurian pears were starting to colour up and the perennial grasses were in their full glory waving gently in the wind before being cut back for Winter.


I love the textural contrast between the pencil pines and the grasses


The back veranda with Wisteria starting to get going across the wires on the posts, and another Perennial grass with Westringia balls beside it.



This was a few weeks later as the Forest Pansy in the back corner started to clothe itself in bright buttery yellow. 


It's full of buds now, and about to burst into tiny pink flowers - this was it last Spring.


 Truly the ornamental tree that keeps giving - I love how the heart shaped leaves change colour throughout Summer from dark Burgundy to green.

Early Summer last year



My roses along the Petanque court in Autumn, above, which I'd transplanted from the front garden. These are mainly David Austin's Heritage. Mixed in are bearded irises and ratty looking lambs ears (caterpillars galore) 


 The last of the Sweet Peas in Autumn, which I grew from Seed from the Diggers Club. They were white and looked as if the ruffled edges had been dipped in the palest of lilac watercolour paints. Sweet Peas remind me of my mother - she always grew them in her garden, and we'd have huge bunches inside when I was a child.


One of the project we've had done in the garden was fixing up the last of the front garden projects. When we finished the extension there was a small section of garden that was uncultivated (above) outside the children's Playroom windows. It had a Crabapple that we'd planted around 5 years ago, but aside from that I ignored it - it also had the Plant (as I call it), which contains the air conditioning units, the boiler, the hot water storage, the water softener, and the watering system control pad. None of it attractive, and it was all full of weeds.


 Finally we finished it off by paving with bluestone around the crabapple. This is sloped away from the house, and is keeping our cellar dryer (we have an original cellar, so it doesn't have a modern damp proof coursing, and when this area was unpaved and sloping toward the house, the water was draining down into the cellar keeping it fairly damp).



We also had a screen built with sliding doors for access to the plant. This is the view that my youngest child's bedroom looks out onto, so it's been much improved, and is actually a really nice area now.


I've also been busy planting more plants in the garden beds. There were some maples and camellias that I planted 5 years ago, but it's dry shade here (there is a large Liquidambar tree) and it's been tough getting other things to grow.


In the front garden I've done a big tidy up/ cut back over the past few months, and planted more things too.


Today I added some more Agave that I had left over, and added a couple more succulents which I snapped off the other plants and shoved in the soil. They'll send out roots fairly quickly as the ground is still so damp.



In the side garden it's all bare of the pear tree leaves, and the structure from the box hedges, virbunum topiary balls,  and the olive trees keeps it looking neat


Back to the back garden the structure plantings are really the only thing of interest at the moment. The hedges grew well last Summer, and they now prevent the garden from looking too bare when everything else is cut back.


I particularly like the planting up against the back veranda - the box balls, star jasmine ground cover and cycads contrast nicely to each other.


I've planted 25 more roses in my beds around the Petanque court. All David Austin, and a lot of pinks and reds- Brother Cadfael, Woolerton Old Hall, William Shakespeare, Munstead Wood... you'll be bombarded by rose photos in October, so be warned!


 And lastly, here is the Echium Giant that I grew from seed a couple of years ago. It's living up to its name and starting to put out its white flower head. I've planted a few more of these in the garden (all still babies), and can't wait to see it in all its glory (the flower head grows about 2 metres high).

In preparation for the upcoming Summer, I've finally got around to ordering the sun lounges for around the pool. I ended up, after an exhaustive search for something contemporary, but that also suited the Victorian front of our house, settling on two of these:

Costa chaise from Restoration Hardware

Now I just have to wait the 3 months until they finally arrive down here after the lengthy shipping process. But as it's still pretty cold, there won't be any Pool action for at least a few months.

Happy gardening!
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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