Lost Property - Musk Farm


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Legacy is a labour of love. For Cathy and Michael Wagner, Musk Farm is more than a country escape—their spontaneous purchase was a life a affirming bloom. As you drive into the motor court of their home, you’re greeted by a stone boy playing the trumpet. Water pours from the instrument’s mouth into the pond below, and the sound feels like the crescendo to the garden’s movement.

“We bought the property in 2017, we weren’t contemplating a tree-change at all,” recalls Cathy, “We both just came out of major surgery, I gave up a kidney and Michael got one. They say you shouldn’t make any major life decisions at that time but we did.”

Musk Farm was originally a Victorian Primary School that was repurposed in 1998 by the late Stuart Rattle—one of Australia’s most celebrated interior designers. “The walls have been covered in William Morris fabrics, not wallpaper...and Stuart actually ew out

a French artisan to hang the wall fabric,” explains Cathy.

The interior opulence is highlighted in the dining room, where the walls are draped in William Morris’ The Strawberry Thief textile. Morris’ Eastern rendition of the pattern was inspired by the European robins that would steal the strawberries in the kitchen garden
of his countryside home. This romantic appropriation of the garden is not just celebrated inside Musk Farm, where Stuart Rattle’s oeuvre naturally comes to life, but also outside, where his collaboration with Paul Bangay synthesizes into that divine ideal that so many poets found amongst nature.

The garden rooms surrounding their home, of which there are fifteen divided by sculpted English hedges, have been perpetually breathing new narratives into both Cathy and Michael’s embrace of life. “It’s been very life a affirming. Two years before we purchased the property, we didn’t know whether Michael would survive or whether we could even do the transplant—there was a high chance that if they did do the transplant he might not survive,” Cathy pauses, “It felt like the next stage in life’s journey, a looking forward not looking back thing.”


Cathy works as a psychologist in East Melbourne, and describes the weight of her work as emotionally draining. “I’m essentially a cognitive behavioural therapist, so when you’re in the garden your mind in stimulated by all ve senses,” you can hear Cathy’s mind wander by the bank of rhododendrons, “you do what is called perceptual thinking; what you can smell, what you can see, what you can taste and
what you can feel. It’s one of the reasons why people find gardening so relaxing. It helps me step away and just take care of myself.”

These landscaped gardens don’t just represent our relationship to nature, but they offer a biblical fantasy of the world in a painterly state. “Anything of beauty is something that must be shared. I’ve always felt strongly about the concept of sharing and giving,
it’s one of my strengths—and strengths can be a weakness but I love it.” And Cathy has done just that, furnishing a private studio with an ensuite for guests as well as opening the terrace gates for tours of the gardens on weekends.

“Even though we’re in the late winter dormant stage of the garden, the woodlands area is mass planted with Daffodils...so there’s just a sea of thousands of Daffodil bulbs interspersed with Bluebells that blossom as the Daffodils die.” The rustling of tree Fuchsias, old Aquilegia, and Dwarf Gladioli, form a moving collage of something ethereal—a vibration of fauna that weeds out the technology in our lives to distill that longing for paradise.

Musk Farm
11 School Road, Musk

0407 264 275