Monthly report from the National Trust property Riversdale

At last! Our vegie garden is having a makeover: a really, really exciting one.

REALLY, REALLY EXCITING: The beginnings of Riversdale's garden makeover, with two volunteers turning it "into a true Victorian potager". Photo: Cliff Giles

REALLY, REALLY EXCITING: The beginnings of Riversdale's garden makeover, with two volunteers turning it "into a true Victorian potager". Photo: Cliff Giles

Two Southern Highlands stalwarts, Lois Thornborough and Margaret Perrin, flog down the highway once a fortnight to voluntarily turn the poor neglected thing into a true Victorian potager. 

Lois, bless her cotton socks, has been on the search in Trove and come up with month-by-month plantings circa 1830 to 1860. It will be interesting to see how climate change will have affected that. 

They’ve numbered the beds and have worked out a schedule of rotational plantings. One of the beds is kept exclusively for bee forage. 

If you’re a gardener, you’ll be really interested in the way they’ve planted the pumpkin and zucchini: in the two halves of an old water tank, making a big well in the top filled with old horse manure. 

Because of the welling and the heat (the horse manure does that), the seeds will happily germinate even if it’s a bit chilly! Cunning.

Growers Fair

If you come to our Rare Plants and Growers Fair on October 30 (10am-3pm, admission fee includes entry to house for Isobel Bowden exhibition, talks on beekeeping and garden tours), you’ll be able to buy a copy of Lois’s compilation. It will include seasonal plantings and a listing of what flowers when at Riversdale, which means the whole area. If something survives at Riversdale with our big open spaces – which means howling westerly winds and below-below-freezing frosts, and dry hot areas – it will survive anywhere in the district. We’re a real climate and conditions litmus test for plants.


Speaking of flogging along highways, another new volunteer, and an amazing gardener, is Jane Hope. She comes Tuesdays from Gunning and looks after what we call the Lucky Garden (‘Jane’s Jungle’).

Gardening awards

Did you know that we won the Lilac City Festival Heritage Garden Award? And the Betty Jane May Award, which was special for us. Betty Jane, an amazing gardener, had a lot to do with Riversdale in the earlyish days before the drought bit. She also worked for the Lilac City Festival for years along with husband Ken. We tried really hard for that one. It meant a lot to us.

We’ve put a submission in to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council Heritage Award for restoring the garden here. We know there is heaps of competition! Hopefully we’ll get lots of people interested in coming here to see our gardens. 


Still on the garden theme, don’t forget the Isobel Bowden Botanicals (watercolours) exhibition on here from Garden Fair time until the end of November. it comes from Woodford Academy in the Blue Mountains and it’s a stunner, and you will be able to buy prints. Monies raised goes to the National Trust.

Riversdale National Trust is at 2 Twynam Drive, North Goulburn. Messages: 4821 4741. Devonshire teas third Sunday of the month (October 16). Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, 10am-2pm, Sunday, 10am-3pm.

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