“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.”-Elizabeth Murray
If you love Gardens then Al ru Farm at One Tree Hill in South Australia is a must visit. The property is owned by Ruth and Alan Irving since 1979. It is a working farm and Ruth has transformed the once bare house block into a magnificent lush and beautiful 10 acre garden. On meeting Ruth she told us that whenever she ran out of room for the garden she would ask her husband to move the fence back some more to expand the garden. Just quietly, this is also my intention once I run out of room in my rose garden!
The property and gardens at Al Ru Farm are charming with magnificent old trees that provide a shaded canopy over paths and walkways that showcase masses of flowering shrubs, roses, bulbs and self sewn plants of enormous variety. Sheep graze in the distance as do wallabies and kangaroos with a constant spectacle of interesting arbours, trellises and arches around the garden highlighting Ruth’s keen eye for just the right coloured plants to create interest at every turn.
We came across this special gem when we were planning a trip to the Barossa Valley, Al Ru Farm being only 40 minutes from Adelaide. We booked to stay for a few days in the Garden Pavillion in September of 2017. It was a little early for the major Spring flush of garden blooms but nonetheless the garden was incredible in its diversity and abundance. We absolutely loved every minute of our chance to live in Ruth’s awe-inspiring garden for a few days.
With mad guinea fowl chasing us up the drive and her chooks appearing from out of the perennial borders it was a delightful adventure simply walking around the garden. The lawn below viewed from the Garden Pavilion with Bellis Perennis flowers popping up in the grass.
I came away from our stay greatly inspired with many new ideas and a deep sense of admiration for what she has achieved since the 80’s. The aspect that resonated most clearly for me was her emphasis on colour because it is so important to me too.
Across the entire garden are beautiful plantings forming coloured pictures that harmonise and link to one another as if by accident. She told us that she just takes a plant out and wanders with it to hold against another to get a good match or fit. I noticed as well that my approach was reflected in her garden where Ruth is not afraid to move plants around and to be fairly unforgiving in pulling a plant out if not right.
Ruth walked through her garden with us one day and we enjoyed the time spent hearing stories of the garden, her passion clear in her voice and manner. Her next project, that by now may be complete was the lake garden but also Ruth was working on the protection of her mature trees. The day we were with her we were waiting for the arborist to arrive.
I was envious of the gorgeous old trees around the property that give a garden a real backbone and structure that is quite hard to replicate in planning a new garden. We walked along the paths and walkways and at every corner were new more interesting aspects to oooh and aaah about.
We took mental notes of ideas to try at home (or I did) and measured up her metal arches ready for our home garden. Made of rusty metal weld mesh with steel fence posts to secure to the ground. A rustic farm touch we had envisaged ourselves being strong, and available on most farms . These have since proven to be a great success.
Ruth mentioned to us that her garden changes every 10 days or so and her vision was to have something always in flower. She was very gracious forthcoming with advice about plant species to try and ways to do things.
Al ru Farm, with such an expansive and stunning garden is perfect for weddings and events. Ruth opens the garden as an event space and has numerous happy couples come and enjoy the lawns, garden, lake, pond, barn and every other aspect of the glorious South Australian property for their Wedding Day.
I simply have to visit Al Ru Farm again soon and this time, if not booked out in Spring for a Wedding, I would love to see it in full bloom. Perhaps later in November this time to enjoy all that has developed since 2017. I’m sure there will be many changes and I for one will look forward to the colours and colour combinations Ruth has come up with in her beautiful garden.
Words and Pictures by Di Baker 2019