Personal Space: Michael McCoy & his old oak tree

While most home-buyers are sold on interiors, it’s only natural that garden designer and writer Michael McCoy and his wife Karen bought their family home in Woodend for love of a tree.

The century-old oak tree was, and is, perfection. “It’s the quintessential childhood tree – many’s the time you’d walk past and see these little legs dangling,” the presenter of the ABC’s lush new Dream Gardens series says.

“The house itself was pretty dreadful, with aluminium-framed windows and painted a very strange guacamole green. It was moved onsite in the early ’80s and then added to several times, completely senselessly, but I love that. The fact we have to go outside, to walk through the outdoors, to get to our bedroom, suits me very well.”

Dream Gardens goes to air on ABC TV on February 9 at 8pm.

 

OPEN FIRE

Our eldest child has left home and the other two are in their late teens and spend a lot of time in their bedrooms on devices.

Light this and, without a word, the room is full of people lounging around like cats. Build a fire and they will come.

MICHAEL MCCOY RELAXES BY HIS FIREPLACE. PHOTO: MICHAEL RAYNER

MICHAEL MCCOY RELAXES BY HIS FIREPLACE. PHOTO: MICHAEL RAYNER

 

TREE

The oak tree has been a major presence as long as anyone living around here can remember.

Every now and then I say, ‘I can’t cope with this house any longer, there is too much to do’, and the kids go, ‘but what about the tree? You can’t leave the tree.’

Michael McCoy under the old oak tree at his Woodend property. Photo: Michael Rayner

Michael McCoy under the old oak tree at his Woodend property. Photo: Michael Rayner

The Old Oak tree at Michaeel McCoy's Woodend property. Photo: Michael Rayner

The Old Oak tree at Michaeel McCoy’s Woodend property. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

SNOWDROPS

There is a real sense of hope when you see these coming up. The energy with which they push out of the ground makes my heart sing.

I feel so incredibly grateful to have been introduced to the joy of such small and humble things.

Snow drop bulbs pushing up through the soil. Photo: Michael Rayner

Snow drop bulbs pushing up through the soil. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

CLOCK

Prime minister Billy Hughes gave this clock to my great-uncle Tom. He travelled with him to the [post-WWI] peace talks in Versailles as his physiotherapist.

Journalist and author Ray Stannard Baker, who also wrote as David Grayson, was there at the same time, with Woodrow Wilson’s press secretary.

A clock from Grand Uncle Tom. Photo: Michael Rayner

A clock from Grand Uncle Tom. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

LETTERS

These are from my mentors Christopher Lloyd and Jean Galbraith. They brought a level of inquiry to gardening that engaged me and were a huge influence.

It was one of my proudest moments being published on the same page as Jean in The Age when I started writing.

Pile of letters from mentors. Photo: Michael Rayner

Pile of letters from mentors. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

PHOTO

This is a baby photo of my mother Dawn. Of course, I have never known her as anything other than a grown-up and I look at this and think is it possible my kids see me as a grown-up. I love the frame and the bubble glass.

Old photograph of baby and duck. Photo: Michael Rayner

Old photograph of baby and duck. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

FRENCH OAK CUPBOARD

I am really only interested in things that have a prehistory like this 1770 cupboard from France.

I like the idea of being custodian of a piece of furniture that has had a life before me and will have a life after me.

Antique French Cupboard. Photo: Michael Rayner

Antique French Cupboard. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

BOOK

This book (Adventures in Understanding by David Grayson) fell out of a box in my mum’s garage into my hands and changed my life.

It made me want to live a life in contact with the soil and the seasons. Only years later I discovered the author wasn’t a real person, but a pseudonym of journalist Ray Stannard Baker.

Book Adventures in Understanding. Photo: Michael Rayner

Book Adventures in Understanding. Photo: Michael Rayner

 

 

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