Keith and Carolyn Cleland

Keith And Carolyn Cleland

“Auchinlea” 1

We came to Armidale from Papua New Guinea in 1978 and purchased the property we named ‘Auchinlea’2 The original owners had lived here for 6 years and planted a variety of trees around a circular driveway, including maples, tulip, poplars and liquid amber ash against a backdrop of radiata pine. 3 acres were fenced off on the Western side from pastures leading over a hill, soon to be dotted with our Poll Herefords. At the time or out arrival we did not appreciate the wind protection value of the hill with its stand of mature stringy barks, not the importance of the 90foot bore hole that has never run dry.

Lacking experience we engaged Colin Donoghue of Uralla for a half a day a fortnight and in time became bold enough to create one or two garden beds by ourselves. We made many mistakes. For example, we used shovel sweat and tears to dig the clay soil – now we use newspaper, compost and water; we were too tentative and dug narrow beds 18 inches wide – now we boldly lay out beds with windbreak hedges of photinia, abelia and escallonia.

As the garden developed, order and direction seeped in. A sense of creating something out of nothing began to take hold and with it an increased motivation to press on. We were greatly helped by a very special and dear friend of much experience, Pat Ellis. She showed us the art and purpose of pruning, not just enhancing shape and growth, but also permitting vistas across the garden and beyond, through uncluttered trees and shrubs. Initial gasps of dismay at deep and denuding cuts gave way to delight as the fruit of her handiwork became apparent.

The garden is heavily composted with hay, leaf mould and manure, working towards an organic garden with no chemical spraying except for grass edges. A very recent development has been the extension of the garden from 3 to 5 acres, embracing a woodland with oaks, silver birches and a variety of trees; a newly laid stone wall beneath a pagoda leads from the garden through walkways lined with masses of daffodils and jonquils in Spring.

Following a visit to Germany, during which we visited the biblical garden of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Darmstadt, we have added as many plants as possible from the bible.

We want to acknowledge the invaluable and professional help of Ned McDowell, and more recently over the past four years, Stephanie Newman, in our endeavours to create a living canvas. For us, Dorothy Frances Gurney’s poem “one is nearer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth”3 has real meaning. Brought out as ballast in a sailing ship in the early 1800’s, the cast iron gates at the entrance to Auchinlea were at one time located ‘close to God’s heart’ in a monastery garden in the UK.

Welcome to our garden! We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work so closely and lovingly with His creation.

Keith and Carolyn Cleland


1) Auchinlea is a garden for all seasons: Spring: bulbs, magnolias, crab apples, cherry blossom. Summer: roses, agapanthus. Autumn: coloured leaves, orange red and yellow. Winter: daphnes, hellebores, wallflowers, red-stemmed cornus

2) Current owners are the surviving family of the Cleland’s of Auchinlea, near Cleland Town, S.W of Glasgow.

3) “The kiss of sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, Than anywhere else on earth.”