Mona, Kings Highway, Braidwood
Wandering among Mona’s grand gardens, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped on to the set of period drama Downton Abbey.
Stands of mature elms, oaks, cedars and poplars create dappled sunlight and the clipped box hedges and walled par terre garden leave no doubt that this is a formal garden of the black-tie variety.
Along the property’s wide and meandering paths lined with stonework and past its Georgian-era outbuildings is the dressage arena, where owner Rose Deo can be found putting handsome gelding Odysseus through his paces.
Nearby, her children are heading off for a late afternoon ride and to the west, the sun is sinking behind Mount Gillamatong.
It was about two years ago that Rose and her family left the sunny climes of Brisbane for Braidwood but already they feel at home. Even freezing winter mornings didn’t faze them.
“I grew up in Rugby near Crookwell, and have always preferred the colder climates with their wonderful seasonal changes,” Rose says.
With a wish-list that included a local highschool, stables for her horses, a big homestead, established gardens and extra accommodation for guests, Rose says Mona ticked all the boxes.
“I have always wanted a big rambling old house in the country and when I saw Mona with her beautiful old trees and winding garden paths, I felt like I had come home.” A work in progress since 1837, Mona’s award-winning gardens present postcard views in all directions.
Its 120 acres have been developed following the principles of English landscape designer Capability Brown, whose forte was the middle-distance landscape garden: scenes of sweeping lawn accentuated by groups of noble trees, contours sloping to glimpses of water and rising to melt into the skyline of encircling woodlands.
Formerly operated as a luxury accommodation business, Mona features a coach house, stables, a shearing shed-style function centre and the original manger for the property’s working horses.
Standout features of the property include a picturesque lake, stone Palladian-style bridge, poplar walk and an elm wood underplanted with bluebells, daffodils and jonquils.
Rose says her favourite part of the garden is the stand of trees overlooking the lake and the view over the paddocks to Mt Gillamatong.
“In summer it is like a Tuscan scene with the golden grass and I can see my mares and foals.”
She says maintaining such a large and historic garden can be a daunting task.
“I’ve discovered it’s a lot of work but I think it’s worth it. There are not many properties around like Mona and I don’t think it could be replaced.
“I’m still discovering new things about her, and there are a lot more things I’d like to do in terms of restoring buildings and the gardens. I am probably not the most expert of gardeners but I do enjoy it, and I’m learning quickly.”