If, as the Chinese proverb says, life begins the day you start a garden, then Mornington Peninsula consultant Nick Smith’s life began in earnest 20 years ago. He was driving back from his parents’ (Channel 9 personality Pete and Jacqueline Smith) holiday house at Portsea when he spotted land for sale that he imagined might fulfil his long-time ambition to own a farm.
Before he knew it he was signing the dotted line that made him the owner of a property perched high in the back blocks of Boneo, with sweeping views across the surrounding farmland and coastal settlements to Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait. But a farm was just the beginning for the appropriately named Panorama Estate, although it is host to a menagerie of native and domestic animals, including a herd of miniature Belted Galloway cattle. Nick also had a burning desire, obsession some might call it, to build a garden. Not just any old garden, mind you, because across the past two decades, Nick has cultivated more than 25 acres (10 hectares) of the 55-acre (22-hectare) property.
Before a single plant went in Nick spent close to two years installing four kilometres of post and rail fencing. Because his plans also included a wildlife sanctuary, fox-proof fencing was also necessary in certain parts. That achieved, he moved on to the orchard: seven terraces in total, each planted to 12 fruiting trees. This leads to a rose garden, then a walled garden opens out to a palm-studded lake. From there, the visitor walks through a vegie patch and several flower gardens then a boardwalk to a massive crater that spirals down to a reedy pond.
From there, it’s a stroll through the paddock where rare white kangaroos, wallabies and pademelons graze happily alongside deer and sheep to a fern garden, an olive grove, a wooded area just for gnomes, and a shed constructed from Oregon beams from the dismantled Geelong woolshed and timbers milled from trees cut on the property. In total, Nick estimates more than 20,000 plants have been introduced, 8000 tonnes of rock imported and 100,000 bricks recycled to build the 19 different display areas he has created. Paths link the defined areas and Nick estimates it takes about two and a half hours to walk the three-kilometre circuit that takes in the main features.
The complete story was published in Australian Country issue 19.6. Subscribe to our magazine here and never miss out on a story again.
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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass