How The Garden Grew

Shortly after they became engaged in 1929 Miss Harriot Rose Margaret Hall, of Silverspur in Southern Queensland, and Leslie Atherton Gerard Boyce, already established as a promising business executive at the Toowoomba Foundry, bought some six hectares of land on wahat was then the north eastern outskirts of Toowoomba. The land comprised a spur of eucalyptus woodland running south from Mt Lofty on its northern border, a scrap of natural rainforest and a run-down dairy farm, including one cultivated paddock.

Remoulding the Land

After Margaret had designed the house site, drive and surrounding terraces, the spur was remoulded, every foot of top soil being removed, stored and then re-spread over the shaped terraces ... and this was in the days of pick, shovel and wheelbarrow that preceded the bulldozer. It was the Borces' proud boast that they never lost a centimetre of top soil in fifty years of gardening .. and the tradition continues with their trainee, now Estate Manager Daryl Mears.

The house was built and the Boyces moved in after their wedding on April 29, 1930. They lived and gardened here for the rest of their lives, and after their deaths (Margaret in 1984 and Leslie in 1988) their ashes were scattered in the garden.

Working the Garden

As they were not blessed with children, the garden commanded much of their creativity and most of their leisure time. Over the years they established a sunken garden (now the White Graden), a terraced flower garden, a western walk and shrubbery, a walled garden, beautifully lawned terraces, rockeries, and a thriving fruit and vegetable garden in the vicinity of the house. An avid "plantswoman", Margaret continually experimented with new species, trying, for instance, dozens of varieties of daffodils and iris and many lilums and rhododendrons, to establish which did and which did not "do" in Toowoomba. Since good records have been kept, these experiments are of great value to Toowoomba gardeners. The Boyces also collected plants and gardening knowledge on numerous trips abroad.

They pre-empted the vogue for South African proteas and leucodendrons, planting a grove of them near the tennis court after a trip to Africa in the early 1950s. They visited most of the great gardens of the world, and Margaret read and indexed many gardening magazines, Australian and foreign, building up a formidable knowledge of plants and design.

The Rainforest

The restoration and preservation of the remnant of indigenous rainforest on the north-east corner of the property was a favourite project. Before the Boyces' time it had been robbed of all its orchids, stags and elkhorns and tree ferns; the larger trees had been milled; and birds had brought in laien trees, shrubs and vines. After the exotics were removed a canopy of only about 12 metres (40 feet) remained.

A plantation of hoop pines was established on the eastern border to provide initial protection, and the Boyces set about re-introducing indigenous trees, shrubs, vines and ferns, encouraging their growth with a buit-in rain-like fine spray watering system ... years before such things became common. Today the forest canopy is more than 30 metres (100 feet) high, and the natural ecology is restored so that watering is not needed.

The Gift to the University

In May 1969, Mr and Mrs Boyce gave the estate to the University of Queensland in trust to hold the land in perpetuity for such educational purposes as the university Senate shall decide and to preserve and maintain the gardens and natural forest to be used as a Botanic Garden and Natural Forest for the education of the public.