Meet Ros Loftus
Meet Ros Loftus, Riversdale gardener
Riversdale is a National Trust property in Goulburn where volunteers have battled drought, rabbits and running bamboo to recreate a beautiful, much-loved garden.
Interview by Robin Powell
Meet Ros Loftus. Photo - Robin Powell
Tell us a little bit about Riversdale.
The most significant tenants were the Twynam family, who lived here from 1872 until 1967. The property had a fine garden when they bought it, including a medlar planted in the 1840s, which still produces piles of fruit that we make into chutneys and preserves, and a large asparagus patch that became quite famous under the Tynams.
Is the asparagus still here too?
We lost it for about 50 years, but we know that Edward Twynam sent asparagus cuttings in the train to his daughter Mary who lived at Tuggeranong Homestead in the ACT from1889 - 1917. We collected wild asparagus from the orchard there and now have it growing again at Riversdale.
Did all the Twynam women garden?
They loved it. We have a letter from the youngest, 17-year-old Alice, sent when the family had just moved back to Riversdale after some time in Sydney. She writes to her sister Mary that she’d baggsed the best garden bed and had lots of lilies, lilac, lavender and ‘Fortune’s double yellow’ rose. We’ve planted the lilies, lilac, lavender and ordered the rose. That brings the garden so much to life for me.
What was the garden like when you first came here in 2009?
It was a dust bowl. It was very sad, not even the vinca, which covered everything, was smiling. I’d been dragged here by my friend, and I came without much enthusiasm in those days. All we did was to try to dig out the vinca but I found that once you started, it wasn't that difficult to keep going. In factit became an obsession and I spent weekend after weekend, day after day. It became a seven-day a week operation.
Peony. Photo - Robin Powell
Does working in the garden give you a connection with the other women who have lived here?
Oh yes. One day we found some distressed sticks and a fellow who had done his horticultural apprenticeship here during the 1980s recognised them as part of a 100-year-old clump of peonies that had been dug up then. I dug up the sticks, moved them, limed them, watered them, kissed them and all that. The first time the peonies flowered- they are stunning, big pink ones -I was thinking Emily Twynam probably planted these here and all those years ago she was standing here and looking at these same flowers that I’m looking at. That’s a wonderful feeling.
The Riversdale Rare Plants and Growers Garden Fair is Sunday 3rd November from 10am -2pm, when the peonies will be at their best.