The 200 acre farm produces Poll Hereford beef cattle, sheep, and swedes. From the start Kay & Robert realised that the farm could never pay for a new house to start a family in. The only way was to build a house that would earn its own keep, so the plan to build a bed breackfast was born. And so began 9 years of planning and working towards building one of Tasmania's first B&B's.They started by cutting their own timber off the property,some of it was racked to dry for 9 years.Robert had a large workshop and they dressed all their own timber.
Kay and Robert's decicion to build a B&B was because they saw the potential of tourists and locals driving past their gate to visit the Leven Canyon .So the market for morning and afternoon teas, accommodation and meals was quite literally at their doorstep.They decided to be owner builders, Robert as builder, Kay as progect manager and builders labourers dogsbody.It took three years of long hours, blood sweat and thankfully not many tears, from when they poured the slab to when they moved in.
Robert works well with a deadline and when the roof was on they decided to start a family. The next 9 months saw the fastest bit of building that was humanly possible.
The first night home from hospital after the birth of their daughter Amarlie was the first night they slept in the house. In June 1979 they started Kaydale Lodge. Providing luxury country house accommodation, morning & afternoon teas & light lunches 7 days a week.
In 1981 Lesley was born meaning Kay & Robert managed a new business as well as two young children.
The girls were brought up to know they were a valued part of the team. Kay now says 'when they were young they helped us, now we help them'
Amarlie & Lesley grew up both helping in the lodge and in the garden. From a young age having their own section in the garden. In latter years Robert felt that moving the fence back and giving up more farmland for garden was taking 'their section' a bit too far.
Kay had always been an enthusiastic gardener, as were her mother and grandmother. She was very keen to start the garden around the new house. After visiting some cool climate gardens in the Blue Mountains, they were inspired to do some hard landscaping and experiment with creating micro climates,so that they could grow the maples that Kay loved. The garden, as it is now, shows what hard work and a passion for plants can achieve despite harsh climatic conditions.
It all started in 1963 when Robert Crowden at age 22 bought a farm at Nietta, on the North-West Coast of Tasmania.His home was a small split paling, scrim & paper cottage. The farm was covered with logs, rabbits and blackberries when Robert arrived,over the next few years he worked long and hard to clean it up, sow grass and fence paddocks
Starting with a blank slate meant that all the hard landscaping could be done first. All through the 80's & 90's Kay and Robert worked in the the garden, building stone retaining walls, archways, planting and installing watering systems. This was a monumental task, especially as they had to juggle two young children and a thriving business.
The woodland garden was started the year after Kay and Robert built the house. They planted trees and cottage garden perennials, the perennials as fillers until the maples and other trees and shrubs matured.
The hole for the woodland garden pond was originally dug in 1982 and was poured in 1998(Kay is a very patient women). This was the first year the garden was in the Australian Open Garden Scheme. Knowing all the family work well with a deadline Kay put in 'water feature just completed'. A week before the open date the pond was complete, hearing the sound of the water for the first time on the Saturday morning of the open weekend. Since then the garden has opened twice a year, with at least one new project completed or in progress for the open weekend.
In 2007, 8 years after Lesley sowed the seed, over 1000 rare Trilliums (a North American native woodlander) were big enough to plant out under a mature Mt Fuji cherry . A new path was put through,the whole area was then mulched with mushroom compost, newspaper and straw. They have done very well,with lots of interesting colour combinations.
The Fernery is an area that was originally dug down to solid clay to be a tennis court in 1987. Years later they finally decided to build a fernery instead.
The Dry Zen Garden was the major project for 2005. The actual planning, design and building the garden was great fun. Thankfully Amarlie and Kay had a good idea of what they wanted. Initially it was for somewhere to house Kay's bonsai. So the girls constructed a large stone wall. This not only shelters the bonsai but is north facing, giving a warm place to grow Kay's apricot tree (a minor miracle in the Nietta climate). The best thing about this type of garden is that it looks interesting all year round.
The Bulb Rockery was built in 2005 as a home for all Lesley's rare small bulbs. She had been growing these from seed for years and needed somewhere to plant them, where Amarlie would not plant over the top of them with perennials.
The Garden continues to expand and grow and as the next Open Garden Weekend comes along that is sure to mean another project in the garden!
The Pear Walk had been planned for years, finally in 1994 the frame and trees were planted. 27 pear trees make this a spectacular show through spring, summer and autumn.
The Rockery was Lesley and Amarlie's first major project .They were 15 and 17 when they decided to build a rockery. Luckily the farm has an abundance of stone, becauce 180 ton of stone and 27 truckloads of dirt later it was completed. When it was first planted it looked extremely bare, but their imagination saw it as overflowing with flowers and colour. Now the Rockery is everything that they imagined all those years ago.
Then in 1969 Kay came over to Tasmania on a working holiday from Queensland and was staying with a friend who was Roberts next door neighbours daughter. They met a few days after Kay arrived, and married the following year. Kay recalls 'I fell in love with the man and had to learn to love the climate'
The Vegetable garden was redesigned in 2001, it took Robert four years to see the benefits of not growing 60ft long rows of peas, beans etc. Now with triangle beds Robert can only sow smaller amounts regularly. In 2007 the girls started paving the paths with stone before Robert could change his mind. Literally setting it in stone. This also makes the vegetable garden easier to maintain.