Find a slice of paradise in Tasmania

Find a slice of paradise in Tasmania

Life & Style
Heaven on earth! Derelie and Bob Cherry's new home near Ulverstone, northern Tasmania is in one of Australia's stellar gardening destinations.

Heaven on earth! Derelie and Bob Cherry's new home near Ulverstone, northern Tasmania is in one of Australia's stellar gardening destinations.

Aa

Derelie and Bob Cherry's new home near Ulverstone, northern Tasmania is in one of Australia's stellar gardening destinations.

Aa

It's rare for anyone to find a home so beautiful they call it paradise.

It must be unique for it to occur twice in a lifetime, yet this has been the happy experience of plant hunter and breeder Bob Cherry.

When Bob was looking for somewhere to establish a nursery in the early 1970s, the woodland valley he found near the NSW Central Coast was so glorious he christened it Paradise Gardens.

Some 40 years later, tired of heat and sandstone soil, he and his wife Derelie bought 25 acres beside a river in northern Tasmania, a paradise in all but name.

Tasmania's north-west coast is one of Australia's best kept gardening secrets. It has rich, red volcanic soil, cool winters, mild summers and year-round rainfall.

As rose grower the late Susan Irvine once said, the region knows nothing of the droughts that plague Tasmania's midlands and south, it's always green - a land of milk and honey.

Visiting recently for the tulip festival (The Land, October 24, 2019) I was thrilled to have the chance to meet Bob and Derelie in their new home.

They were in the garden when we arrived, Derelie picking poppies, Bob immersed in one of his igloos and busy, though we were warmly welcomed and in no time at all were deep in their world of plants, gardens and history.

Bob has been a plant tragic since early youth. His original nursery was in his parents' Gosford garden where he made his first forays into plant selection and breeding with azaleas.

Variations in flowers and foliage fascinated him and he searched continually for better and more beautiful plants to propagate.

He fell in love with camellias and became famous for many beautiful new cultivars.

This led to more than 30 trips to China and plant hunting in western Yunnan.

For years I've grown a Chinese osmanthus selected by Bob from O. delavayi named 'Pearly Gates' - heaven is clearly a leitmotif in Bob's life - which has white, heavily fragrant flowers in winter.

Retirement isn't in Bob's vocabulary and he's currently breeding new varieties of lavender (Lavandula stoechas, that according to legend "breathes forth the breath of paradise", and L. dentata), Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) and carnations (Dianthus) for release by Paradise Plants.

He showed me mouth-watering forms of michelia bred from M. yunnanensis I hadn't dreamed existed.

Bob also grows flowers for seed and, together with Derelie, is re-planning and planting their large new garden.

He loves a joke and enjoyed telling me that Italian lavender is found in Spain, Portugal and Greece but not Italy, French lavender occurs around the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula but not in France and Iceland poppies come from subpolar Europe, North America and mountainous central Asia - but not Iceland.

As we departed, he was eyeing a vast heap of stones for a large new retaining wall.

"Building walls is my hobby," he said. Of course. But breeding plants is his life.

Aa

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