Shoalhaven News

Merribee running master classes in shaping up your plants

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Keen gardeners from across the state are flocking to the Nowra area as Numbaa's renowned Merribee property hosts the inaugural Australian Topiary and Hedging Festival.

It started yesterday to coincide with World Topiary Day, and continues through to Sunday, with topiary and hedging masterclasses being held today.

Property owner Lucy Marshall said the festival will feature workshops, demonstrations and competitions, all among close to three hectares of spectacular gardens featuring amazing hedging and topiary displays.

They're based on around 10,000 buxus plants expertly shaped and trimmed into fascinating creations.

"We arguably have the largest number of buxus plants in one garden in Australia, and many of those are shaped actually into topiary, so we have a whimsical take in parts of the garden," Lucy said.

"There's a huge kangaroo, there's an emu, and together they form the coat of arms."

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But there is much more than just hedges and topiary to the gardens, that already attract about 25,000 visitors per year.

"I guess there's now 20 or more, what you would call botanical rooms, and that is everything from the lavender paddock to a heritage rose garden, there's a secret garden behind timber doors, there's a parterre garden with crabapples in it and Annabel hydrangeas, there's two apothecary gardens - one based on a seventh century monastic garden design, one on a Medieval garden design, and they're quiet different to each other and that's just demonstrating what was different in that 500 year period."

It is all a far cry from the way the property was when Lucy and husband Richard bought it back in 2000, as a family escape from their busy city lives.

Lucy said it was just pastures from an old dairy farm, but it all changed through a bit of serendipity.

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Living across the road was renowned landscape designer James Thompson, who would visit when the Marshalls were at he property, and started sharing his visions of what the property could become.

"And he'd say 'I can just imagine this garden, I can just see this plan', and I'd say 'James, go away, that's all too much'," Lucy recalled.

"But he would just work on us and work on us and so then we'd go away and we'd earn the money and we'd come back and say 'All right, you can do that little bit'."

 The little bits started adding up, creating stunning gardens - some of them inspired by unique gardens overseas to create features seen nowhere else in Australia.

Images: Glenn Ellard

Tags: gardens, hedges, Merribee, topiary