Eleven years ago…

Thousands of Australian property owners now offer short-term accommodation to holidaymakers, enjoying the financial and social rewards of interacting with guests from around the world. However, keeping large gardens permanently presentable, safe, and welcoming requires commitment and skill. BARBARA ATKINSON, who, along with husband Colin, owns and operates Beauty Point Cottages in Tasmania, outlines some personal experiences of outdoor property management…

OPERATOR: Beauty Point Cottages
REPRESENTATIVES: Property Owners Barbara & Colin Atkinson
LOCATION: Beauty Point, Tasmania
CONTACT: www.beautypointcottages.com.au 

Colin Atkinson keeps the ornamental gardens in top condition aboard his ride-on mower.

Eleven years ago, my husband Colin and I drove into the little village of Beauty Point in northern Tasmania. We were looking for a Bed and Breakfast business to purchase, as our small farm near Boggabri, New South Wales, was being swallowed up by the Whitehaven Mine across the road!

Imagine our delight as we drove down the winding driveway to find a fountain set in a sweeping garden, with the entire estate abutting a blue river: the kanamaluka (Tamar) river. It seemed like paradise to us after 17 years of droughts and flooding rains on the mainland.

We found self-contained cottages nestled into the old garden, with beautiful water views and king-size beds, a spa bath in one and an easy-access bathroom in the other. It was an easy decision to purchase Beauty Point Cottages and we quickly learned how best to spoil our guests!

It didn’t take long to find the garden was very overgrown. Some 90% of the vegetation required 50% of it to be pruned. Luckily, Colin had taught Agriculture and Horticulture – including chainsaw use and maintenance– for 17 years at Gunnedah TAFE, and he had a STIHL MS 171 and a telescopic Ozito pruner PPE 750 (240v) ready to start.

TIP

Always make sure your chain is sharp, touching it up after every tankful. Learning to sharpen your saw yourself will save you a great deal of money. Search for a copy of the OREGON maintenance and safety manual for chainsaws.

Garden maintenance is a never-ending task, involving occasional heavy work transforming fallen trees into firewood.

REGULAR MAINTENANCE

There was a mulcher on the property, but we quickly learned that we needed one with a large maw capable of eating branched limbs; reducing every branch to a single stem quickly lost its novelty, and the mulcher was given to a grateful neighbour.

A large garden requires a lot of maintenance. We practice ‘finger weeding’ (well, I do), which is laborious and time-consuming, but essential in an old garden full of treasures. The garden beds flow around the wide lawns down towards the river. The beds are edged, and the edges are whipper-snipped before the STIGA 48” cut ride-on mower can begin its work. Finishing the job with a STIHL VG56 leaf blower is especially useful during autumn leaf fall.

TIP

If you have a large tree in the middle of a lawn, always make the garden bed around it extend to the drip line of the tree, even if it is only mulched – it will then look right in its setting.

Guests are free to enjoy the grounds and gardens for sightseeing, relaxing… or even playing bagpipes!

ESSENTIAL TOOLS

Recently I received a battery-operated STANLEY Fat Max V20 pruning saw for my birthday, which Colin has been enjoying using! The hedges must be trimmed three times each year, which is easier with a battery-operated Ozito 2.0 AH hedge trimmer. Another essential tool for us is our Kärcher K3 pressure cleaner, which is invaluable for maintenance of buildings and paved areas. Always go back after finishing a job and make sure everything is neat and tidy. 

SAVE RECEIPTS

As a husband-and-wife business we don’t have many power tools. But the ones we have are carefully chosen and well used. Imagine our horror to find one afternoon that everything in the garden shed marked ‘STIHL’ had been stolen. We were also very surprised to discover our insurance company processed the claim and had the replacement monies in our account by the end of the week!

TIP

Make sure you keep your receipts attached to your manuals because prompt sending of these details to your insurer equals prompt payout (if you have the right insurance company, of course!)

PLANT SELECTION

I read years ago in an ancient gardening book these words: “It’s not a sin to buy a plant – or one hundred plants – from a nursery…providing you take cuttings from the plant BEFORE you plant it. Inevitably the parent plant will die, but the cuttings will live… because it is in your water, your soil, and your microclimate and they will thrive.” This anecdote always encourages me when I go into the nursery! Also, when you go into your garden shed once a year to wash your second-hand pots clean, do NOT count them and multiply each by $10, as you will be shocked at how much money you spend on plants each year!

Beauty Point Cottages, abutting Tamar River, Tasmania, features a heritage homestead and two self-contained cottages.

MAINTENANCE

At Beauty Point Cottages we do our own maintenance where possible, and harder repairs are taken to our local STIHL dealership at Exeter in Tasmania, which is where we purchase any new power and machinery tools.

We feel it is very important that each guest feels (even if it’s just for a moment) that this is their very own place, so we are careful not to do any work or maintenance whilst guests are in. Also, the cottages are cleaned and maintained to a high standard, so guests feel they are the very first guests ever to stay in the cottage: quite a feat considering the cottages were built in 2002. This involves regular upgrading of furnishings, etc.

Manicured gardens are an important backdrop to the well-maintained cottages.

One of our main costs this year has been insurance, which has increased by 100%.

Overall, the trouble with a husband-and-wife businesses is…there is ONLY the husband and wife, so one needs to become clever at planning jobs and remember to take time off to go for coffee and cake or fish and chips on the beach, or …