When visiting my in-laws last holiday season down in NSW (Bowral to be exact) we went on a small day tour out to a winery for lunch and on the way, we stopped in at Harper's Mansion.
A really brief history about Harper's Mansion in Berrima
Situated in Berrima approximately 125 kms south of Sydney Harper's Mansion was built in 1835 on 100 acres of land. Mr and Mrs Harper came to Australia as convicts and it's a pretty remarkable story about how they managed to buy such a significant property and become prominent social figures within their community considering their humble beginnings.
Sadly though, James Harper died in his late thirties, and then Mary passed away 8 years later aged 49. However, it does seem like they had a full life with 8 children and many milestones reached in their short lives by today's standards.
The full property (now just 2 acres) is a National Trust managed by dedicated volunteers. You can read more about the history of Harper's Mansion on their Website (the link as at the bottom of the page).
The self-sufficient food garden
Of course, there's more to Harper's Mansion than the delightful food garden set centrally on the heritage property (as it should be); but for me, food gardening is what I'm obsessed about and that's why this article is mainly focused on the food.
Harper's Mansion Produce Garden (image above)
Self-sufficiency back in the 1800's was incredibly important so whilst I find the heritage house, 350-metre cypress maze, cottage gardens, and ghost stories interesting I can't help imagine the necessity the Harper Family must have felt to maintain their fruit and vegetable garden. Initially, the Harper's purchased 100 acres and also ran domestic livestock as well as larger style crops but the essence of self-sufficiency on the property still remains today.
Simplistic and rustic is the "back to Eden" style of food garden whereby food plants are layered together from edible ground cover, to berry shrubs, up to fruit trees. All types of seasonal vegetable and fruiting crops are cultivated – on our visit we saw strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, onions, kale, to name a few and also several different varieties of herbs. There were blackberry bushes, raspberries, and even globe artichoke competing for the medium growth height, and above this were apple trees, fig, stone fruits, etc.
Close up of garden plan (image above)
Directly across from the food garden was a large ornamental area full of flowering plants and besides looking beautiful it also had the purpose of attracting pollinating insects to the garden.
Video of Harper's Mansion
Here's a short video about Harper's Mansion specifically describing the self-sufficient garden.
If you are into heritage sites and self-sufficiency, I highly recommend visiting Harper's Mansion in Berrima NSW. We packaged our visit together with a few other attractions, such as a winery tour, making our visit to this historic homestead a wonderful full day out.