Third-generation sheep farmers John and Sally-Ann Cottle live in spectacular surrounds in the Monaro High Country.

Most homes usually have a view of some description — a row of trees, an adjacent building or maybe nearby parklands. It’s that defi ning “something” that the eye is drawn to as it peers out the window at the world. Fewer homes have a selection of vistas, while a lucky few have spectacles at every turn. John and Sally-Ann Cottle’s country property, Shirley, located half an hour from Cooma, is such a place. It’s a veritable oasis that features extensive European-inspired gardens, a man-made lake and room enough for approximately 12,000 Merino and Dorset-cross sheep.

“We returned from travels in Europe in 2006,” Sally-Ann explains, “and we were so inspired by the extraordinary gardens we had seen that we commissioned Melbourne-based landscape designer, Paul Bangay, to sympathetically redesign the garden to evoke a more European style.”

The result is formal gardens in close proximity to the main house blending through to an English park-like landscape. It’s a savvy overhaul, which includes the addition of hedges, a striking parterre garden in the place of an old tennis court, two new ponds and a sizeable paved courtyard with plane trees.

Luckily for Paul Bangay, he had good bones to work with. The garden was originally established by John’s grandparents in the 1930s, with the help of renowned Southern Highlands green-thumb Claude Crowe. He was responsible for the stone walls, rare conifer species and other key plantings which remain integral to the landscape today. Just a handful of the mature trees now in existence at Shirley include oaks, elms, poplars and various cypress. As a consequence of all this hard work, which John maintains diligently to this day, this garden is considered one of the great gardens in the Snowy Mountains region.

“My favourite part of the garden is the lake, which was established by John’s grandfather,” Sally-Ann says. “It provides a great place for picnics and is viewed from most parts of the garden. It even has a little beach and old stone barbecue.”

The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 16.4. Click here to subscribe to our magazine.

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Words Siobhan O’Brien
Photography Stephanie Lees