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Modelled on some of the great gardens of England, this vibrant cool-climate property in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales is bursting with rare and colourful perennials.

When Julie and Craig Hulbert first saw their 0.4ha block in 2000, there was little on it except for grass and a few eucalypt trees. Today, ‘Perennial Hill’ is an extensive cottage-style garden filled with design themes and motifs that were consolidated by a tour of English gardens in 2012. Rustic pathways of crushed granite and compacted earth, circular garden beds, formal box hedges, woven poplar screens, fountains, sculptures, dry stonewalls and cute touches, such as the upturned flowerpots on fence posts, are all a nod to the English gardens the couple visited – 42 of them in five weeks.

Here in Mittagong, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, the soil is rich and volcanic, and this helped persuade the couple to buy the property. “Having good soil gave us a headstart, and it meant we didn’t have to truck any in, ” says Julie.

The first planting was a screening hedge of Leighton’s green cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) down one side of the property that fronts onto a busy road, cutting sound and visual pollution.

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Next came the construction of the house. Inspired by French farmhouses, the house is situated in the middle of the garden and has a distinctive provincial feel with its dark terracotta paintwork and covering of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

The garden commenced in 2001 after the couple finished building their home. As it happened, there was an Australia-wide drought at the time, which made the going tough, but it helped Julie and Craig appreciate the good seasons when rain was plentiful. Moving from a temperate Sydney climate to the cooler region of Mittagong required a new palette of plants, the needs of which they quickly picked up.

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