Now to some famous old nurseries in Victoria, which are open all year round and sell a wide variety of plants. Next month, I will feature the smaller, more specialized nurseries. I am starting with a very famous name in the nursery world in Australia, that of Clive Blazely and The Diggers’ Club and their two properties : ‘Heronswood’ and ‘The Garden of St. Erth’, followed by ‘Cloudehill’, which opened a Diggers’ shop in 2014 and two of our current suppliers : Tesselaars and Lambley Nursery.
The Diggers’ Club
The Diggers’ Club was formed back in 1978, when Clive and Penny Blazely saw a need to preserve and promote heirloom vegetable and flower varieties, which were being dropped from the mainstream seed companies. The name : ‘Diggers’ refers to the 17th Century English diggers who grew food on public land to donate to the poor, as well as the goldrush diggers who rebelled at Eureka Stockade and of course, the Australian soldiers in World War I. Their first mail order catalogue listed 300 varieties of vegetable and flower seeds.In 1983, Clive and Penny bought ‘Heronswood’ on the Mornington Peninsula and developed a 2 hectare cottage garden based on heirloom varieties. They pioneered the use of drought-tolerant plants in 1988 and led the revival of heirloom vegetables in 1991. Slowly, the business grew. In 1996, they opened a thatched roof cafe ‘Fork to Fork’, as well as buying a 2nd Diggers property, The Garden of St. Erth. Unfortunately, the cafe burnt down in 2014, but ‘Heronswood’ now has its restaurant in the historic house itself.In 2007, the nursery, seed departments and office moved to a 20 acre site in Dromana and in 2011, Clive and Penny gifted ownership of the entire operation : Diggers’ Club, Heronswood and The Garden of St. Erth to the Diggers Garden and Environmental Trust, to ensure that all their work over the last 30 years would be continued forever. The trust is involved with research, education and the preservation and conservation of botanical and ecological habitats, historic houses and gardens and heirloom seeds, as well as the promotion of the use of horticulture for dietary wellbeing and health. In amongst all this, Clive has also written 7 books on flower, vegetable and fruit gardening!
In 2011, they also opened their 3rd Diggers shop in Adelaide Botanic Garden, their 4th shop at Cloudehill in April 2014 and their 5th shop at Heritage Nursery, Yarralumla, Canberra, in November 2015. We are particularly happy about this latest development, as Heritage Nursery (http://heritagenursery.com.au/) is one of our favourite nurseries in Canberra and we will now seriously consider rejoining Diggers’ membership, not just for their wonderful heirloom seed range, including their Sun and Moon watermelon seeds, but also the fact that as Diggers members, we get a 10 percent reduction on the price of any future plant purchases from Heritage Nursery!
Diggers’ Club is now the largest garden club in Australia with the biggest range in heirloom seeds and plants. Membership costs $49 per year, with the cost reducing if you sign up for longer. Membership benefits include :
- 7 Seasonal magazines with lots of gardening advice, including a bumper seed annual for vegetables, flowers and herbs.
- Discounted prices on shop products, including collections of plants, seeds and bulbs and books.
- Member-exclusive products of rare and extra special plants, seeds and bulbs.
- Free entry to the Heronswood, The Garden of St. Erth and Cloudehill.
- Free gardening advice from Diggers’ experts.
- Free seed offers in Autumn and late Spring, as well as 2 year memberships.
Their current emphasis is on preserving the best plants and gardening traditions for Australian conditions. They are strong vocal advocates against climate change and genetically-modified seeds and food, as well as speaking out against industrial agriculture and the corporatization of our food supply. They are also heavily involved in education from tours of their gardens to seasonal festivals, monthly workshops and special events led by gardening experts. Their wealth of garden expertise listed in https://www.diggers.com.au/about-us/experts/ reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the gardening world in Australia and I recognized a number of names : Andrew Laidlaw from Burley, Tino Carnevale from ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, Indira Naidoo (Ex-SBS news reader and author of ‘The Edible City’), Penny Woodward, writer of herbal books and Robyn Francis of permaculture fame, to name but a few.
Diggers’ website is a mine of gardening information. Their ‘What’s On’ tab includes :
- What’s In Season
- Garden festivals and gardens to visit
- Garden Travel
- Workshop Events and Master Classes
- Little Diggers for Junior Green Thumbs and even
- Recipes from the Diggers chefs.
There is also a Plant Finder, which helps you to compile a list of plants, which will grow well in your climatic zone, based on postcode, and which can be narrowed down according to variables like plant height and colour, position and water and flowering, fruiting and sowing times. They also have a number of gardening fact sheets and video tutorials on: Composting; Sowing seeds and planting strawberry runners or garlic; Summer pruning; Growing beans and Espaliering fruit trees. These are all freely available, whether you are members or not. A visit to both their gardens is well worthwhile.
Heronswood Gardens, Nursery and Restaurant
105 Latrobe Parade Dromana Victoria 3936
Open 7 days 9am-5pm. Closed 24-26 December and Good Friday
$10 visitors; Free for Diggers’ members and children under 16 years old; Shop: free entry
Home of the Diggers’ Club and classified by the National Trust of Australia, as well as being on the Australian Heritage Places Register and the Victorian Heritage Register, Heronswood Garden is one of only 4 gardens in Victoria to be listed in the ‘The Oxford Companion to Gardens‘, edited by Patrick Taylor (http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198662556.001.0001/acref-9780198662556), a garden design encyclopaedia listing gardens from all over the world from the earliest times to the present day. The other three are Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne (see my post : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/10/08/favourite-early-19th-century-botanic-gardens-in-australia/), Mawallock (http://www.williewildlifesculptures.com.au/general/mawallok-open-garden/ and http://www.homelife.com.au/gardening/gardening-tips/grand-designs-article) and Rippon Lea (see last month’s post : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/02/09/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-historic-homes-and-gardens/)The steep-roofed two-storey house was built in 1866 from granite, dressed with limestone. It was the family home of Melbourne University’s 1st Professor of Law, William Hearn (1826-1888), He employed William Moat to develop the spacious lawns, gardens and orchard. He planted many oriental and occidental trees, including a Cape Chestnut, which still stands today. William Hearn sold his property to another university professor and ex-student Alexander Sutherland, who then sold it to his friend and another ex-student of Hearn’s, H.B. Higgins (1851-1929), who rose to become a very influential politician and Federal Attorney General.
The house is now home to Heronswood Restaurant, whose meals are all based on fresh produce, local wines and organic vegetables from their gardens.Heronswood Garden was the first garden in Australia to be certified organic. There are 5 separate vegetable gardens with the best heirloom vegetables for Australian conditions. as well as extensive plantings of flowers in perennial borders, dry climate and cottage gardens and annual gardens. One of Diggers’ trademarks is the integration of vegetables and flowers with fruit trees and herbs. The garden showcases the best flowers and plants for Australian conditions. Different plants provide highlights throughout the year, culminating in a peak in Summer with the Summer perennials and heirloom vegetables.The garden shop sells a wide range of plants : cottage flowers; edible plants; flowering shrubs and cool-climate trees, as well as Diggers heirloom seeds. Current monthly workshops at ‘Heronswood’ include : ‘Summer Fruit Tree Pruning’; ‘Floral Arrangements’ and ‘Growing Your Own Garlic’.
The Garden of St. Erth
189 Simmons Reef Rd. Blackwood Victoria 3458
Open 7 days a week, except 24-26 December; Good Friday and Code Red or Extreme Fire Warning Days. 9am-5pm $10 for visitors; Free for Diggers’ members and children under 16 years old; No charge to visit the shop or restaurant.
https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better-homes-gardens/tv-and-video/video/watch/17516874/gardening-st-erth-walkaround-ep-19-07-06-2013/#page1Diggers’ 2nd property (see their official brochure above) and one of our favourite spots to visit, especially in Spring! It is situated at the end of Simmons Reef Rd between Wombat State Forest and Lerderberg State Park, so has plenty of native bird life in the area. It also has a long and interesting history!
In 1854, Matthew Rogers, a Cornish stonemason, left Sydney for the goldfields of Mt. Blackwood, now the village of Blackwood and named after the plentiful Blackwood wattles in the area. Back then, Mt. Blackwood was a bustling town of 13, 000 people and was surrounded by the townships of Red Hill, Golden Point, Barry’s Reef and Simmons’ Reef. In the early 1860s, Matthew built a sandstone cottage, which he called after his birth place in Cornwall. He attached a wooden extension to the western side of the cottage, where he ran a post office and store, as well as the boot factory behind the cottage. As the gold ran out, all the surrounding wooden cottages were moved to Trentham, the sandstone cottage became empty and the bush moved back in, until the land was bought by a group of Melbourne business men called the Simmons Reef Shire Council.The Garden of St. Erth was developed by Tommy Garnett, a former Geelong Grammar Headmaster and horticultural writer and plant enthusiast. He would have had to have been the latter, as back in the 1970s, the soil was very poor due to the heavy gold mining activities of the 1880s. Basically, it was mining rubble! Tommy persisted and established a 2 hectare (6 acres) garden with many rare and unusual plants. He sold to the Diggers’ Club in 1996.The current gardens were designed around the sandstone cottage, which is the entrance to the garden and houses the Diggers’ shop. The colour of the perennial borders complements the golden colour of the sandstone. Heaps of compost were added to improve the soil and intensive French horticultural practices applied to get the maximum productivity out of the small plots of land. Julian Blackhirst is now the Head Gardener.It is a wonderful place to visit with lots of inspirational ideas. There are over 3000 plant varieties, grown in a variety of garden areas, including :
- Herbaceous borders of long flowering Summer Perennials and ornamental grasses.
- Mature trees including a Monterey Pine from gold mining days. Autumn colour.
- Bush Garden.
- Dry Climate gardens with drought-tolerant plants like Achillea, Bergamot, Russian Sage and a variety of Flowering Salvias.
- Kitchen Garden containing heirloom vegetables like Tuscan Kale and purple carrots, which are used in the garden cafe.
- Food Forest, based on permaculture principles, under a canopy of walnuts, hazelnuts and olives. I love their idea of growing Rattlesnake beans up the stems of corn with cucumbers underneath!
- Espaliered pears and apples of over 200 varieties next to the old 1930s orchard at the back of the garden.
- Berry arbours grown with sage and rhubarb and finally…
- Daffodil paddock, a wonderful sight in Spring!
Again, the emphasis is on educating the public about sustainable gardening and what is possible in the Australian climate. Workshops include courses on growing garlic or herbs and pest-repellent plants; companion planting and crop rotation; and bee-keeping for beginners or urban dwellers. Like Heronswood, there are also garden tours during the week.
89 Olinda-Monbulk Rd. Olinda Victoria 3788
Open 7 days a week except 24-26 Dec and Good Friday 9am-5pm
$10 for adults; Children and Diggers’ members free
Cloudehill is situated on the easterly slope of the Dandenongs at a height of 580m above sea level. It receives 1.25 m rainfall per year, falling in most months, though February to April are the driest months. There is little frost, but it does snow occasionally. The big advantage, compared to the last garden, is its soil, which is deep volcanic loam.
Cloudehill started as a working farm back in the 1890s. George Woolwich cleared the 10 acres of old growth Eucalyptus regnans in 1895 to grow cherry trees and raspberry canes. At the end of the First World War, his elder son Ted built a cottage with Art Deco features and started a nursery on the bottom half of the land. In the 1920s, George’s younger son Jim grew wholesale flowers and foliage for the Melbourne florist market on the upper half. The two brothers bought neighbouring blocks of land and at one stage had 70 acres of land under cultivation. During the 1920s, they also imported plants from all over the world: Beech trees for foliage from England; Kurume Azaleas from the USA and beautiful Maples (1928) from Japan.Ted’s Rangeview Nursery and Jim’s flower farm were very popular between 1930 -1950, but both closed down in the late 1960s. The nursery was sold on as a building block and the nursery plantings converted to a garden by Keith Purves. It is now owned by Mary and Ches Mason and run as a Bed&Breakfast establishment called Woolwich Retreat and Rangeview Gardens.In 1991, Jim died and in 1992, Cloudehill was bought by the current owner Jeremy Francis. He inherited the old 1920s Beech trees, rhododendron hedges, deciduous azaleas and meadows naturalized with bulbs from the 1930s, a good start for a garden. Inspired by the Renaissance gardens of Europe and the English Arts & Crafts gardens, Jeremy developed a wonderful garden and his gardening journey is documented in his book : ‘Cloudehill : A Year in the Garden’ with beautiful photography by Claire Takacs. It is also worth receiving his newsletter. The layout can be seen in the photograph of the official brochure above.Cloudehill has 20 garden compartments, including :
- Diggers Shop and Bambouserie with a collection of cool-climate bamboos
- Restaurant Walk : the menu of Seasons Restaurant is dictated by the vegetable garden
- Commedia dell’arte Lawn with South African bulbs flowering in Spring and Summer
- Water Garden with hornbeam hedges, oak leaf hydrangeas and ornamental grasses
- The Maple Court with the old maples imported from the Yokohama Trading Nursery, Japan, back in 1928
- Warm Border – bright red, orange and gold mixed herbaceous plants flowering from November through to Early March
- Cool Border-pastel flowers from Late Spring to Early Autumn
- Summer House Garden including English Beech trees from 1928
- Quadrangle Lawn with scuptures, topiary and Japanese Botan Tree Peonies
- Marquee Lawn for weddings and receptions with a huge old ‘picking’rhododendron
- Gallery Walk with art and sculptures, more tree peonies, mixed shrubs and Scotch Briar roses
- The Peony Pavilion with hostas, Beech and American Lutea hybrid Tree Peonies
- Shade Borders- American Tulip tree, conifers and yews and hydrangeas and camellias
- Theatre Lawn, perfect for hosting Shakespearean plays performed by OzAct in the Summer Twilight evenings and backed by a mixed beech hedge of Green and Copper Beeches, planted in 1950s for foliage
- Azalea Steps : Deciduous azaleas, Beech and Kalmia
- Seasons Glade : Witch Hazels, maples and tree ferns surrounding a beautiful sculpture called ‘The Seasons’ by Leopoldine Mimovich (see 2 photos below)
- Upper Meadow full of naturalized daffodils, bluebells, grape hyacinth in Spring and South African bulbs through the Summer
- Beech Walk : Copper Beech planted for foliage production in the 1960s and underplanted with bluebells
- Lower Meadow: more long- established bulbs and meadow grass, leading to the entrance to ‘Rangeview’ with a huge Magnolia denudata over the entrance. I love Madeline Meyer’s whimsical glazed terracotta figures (see photo below)
- Kitchen Potager
We loved our visits to Cloudehill and managed to see it in all seasons. The bones of the garden are very visible in Winter, when cyclamen and hellebores dot the ground and rhododendrons and magnolias towards Spring. The Spring bulbs are spectacular, as are the tree peonies and lilacs in October and the peonies, rhododendrons and peonies in early November. Diggers’ Garden Festival is held in Spring. I love the Warm and Cool Borders in Summer- such colour and abundance! And then, it’s Autumn with all the wonderful colour of Fall.We never got to see the new Diggers’ shop, started in April 2014, but it offers all the same things as at its other stores : heirloom seeds; cottage flowers; edible plants; flowering shrubs and cool-climate trees; books; garden tours and more workshops in crop rotation and companion planting; permaculture; worm farming; composting; backyard chook keeping; pests and diseases; cider making; growing blueberries, herbs, bulbs and Spring wildflowers; pruning and training berries; and growing hedges and topiary.
357 Monbulk Rd. Silvan Victoria 3795
Office Monday-Friday 8.30am-5pm; Plant shop Monday-Friday 8am-4.30pm, weekend and public holidays 10am-4pm; Closed mid December to late January.
Tesselaars is not far from Cloudehill and is another very big player in the nursery and floristry industry in Australia. It was started by a young Dutch couple, Cees and Johanna Tesselaar, who left Holland on their wedding day to settle in Australia in June 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. They first settled in Ferntree Gully and in 1945, they bought a 6 hectare farm at Silvan, which they called Padua Bulb Nurseries. Their first crops were tulips and gladioli.The business grew into Australia’s largest family-owned floricultural operation and is now run by the eldest son Kees and involves 3 generations of the family. Indeed, many of the employees are also successive generations of their families, so there is a strong family tradition at Tesselaars. They also have specialist network subsidiaries and associated companies in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia with 140 growers throughout Australia.Tesselaars not only grows and markets bulbs, but also plants, perennials and cut flowers. The bulbs are mostly field-grown and are distributed to other wholesalers, prepackaged in large amounts for major Australian distributors, as well as being sold by mail-order. They are the largest bulb and perennial mail order company in Australia and have a loyal customer base, including me! I have always bought by bulbs from Tesselaars ever since I had my first garden back in the early 1980s. They also provide excellent notes on growing bulbs, as well as other plants, with your order. There is also lots of information on their website (see their tab : Gardening Resources).Most of the cut flowers are grown under cover. Tesselaars pioneered the use of plastic houses in Australia back in the 1960s. They now have 6 hectares under cover, including the latest automatic and elevated plastic houses, and the most fuel-efficient computerized systems in the world, growing high quality flower crops year round. Flowers are air- freighted and delivered direct to florist shops via the Tesselaar network. They are very commited to the industry and the adoption of new technologies, techniques and plant varieties from all over the world. They are also heavily involved with the both the Nursery Industry Association of Victoria and the Flower Growers Association of Victoria.They hold a number of festivals, especially in Spring. The Tesselaars Tulip Festival was first held in 1954 and is now in its 62nd year. It will be held every day from 10am-5pm from 8th September to the 4th October 2016. Tickets cost $24 per adult and $20 for concession. The entrance fee goes to Red Cross and other local charities. Children are free. Visitors will be able to see more than half a million Tulips, spread over 25 acres – a veritable sea of colour! There are more than 120 varieties of Tulip on display, as well as market stalls, costumes, live entertainment and food. Within the Tulip Festival are a number of special events:
- Turkish Weekend 11-13 Sep
- Yarra Ranges Week 14-17 Sep
- Dutch Weekend 18-20 Sep
- Children’s Week 21-24 Sep; 28 Sep-1st Oct
- Food, Wine and Jazz Weekend 25-27 Sep
- Irish Weekend 2-4 Oct
We enjoyed our visit to the Turkish Weekend in 2007. Tulips originated in Turkey and there is a really interesting book called ‘Tulipomania’ by Mike Dash, which documents their fascinating history and their rise to become the world’s most coveted flower in 16th century Holland. It is well worth chasing up a copy! We thoroughly enjoyed all the market stalls; the Turkish cuisine and Turkish coffee; the Turkish folk dancing, belly dancing and music; the exotic textiles and fashions; and the beautiful marbling and calligraphy. It was great to learn so much about Turkish culture and heritage, as well as explore all the gardens and wonderful bulb displays. There is even a sculpture competition with a People’s Prize.In April (2-3 Apr 2016), there is also a Gardening and Plants Expo, involving more than 40 nurseries and plant growers, with many interesting and unusual plants for sale, as well as talks and demonstrations by some of Australia’s best gardening experts, including David Glenn from Lambley Nursery, which leads very neatly into a discussion of my last garden.
‘Burnside’ 395 Lesters Rd Ascot Victoria 3364
Open 7 days a week 9am-5pm, except Christmas day. Free entrance to the garden and shop
http://www.crisscanning.com.au/Lambley Nursery is owned by David Glenn and his artist-wife Criss Canning and is set round an old bluestone farmhouse in the Central Victorian goldfields, just north-west of Ballarat. It’s a tough climate for growing plants with temperatures ranging from -8 degrees Celsius in Winter to 47 degrees Celsius in Summer and very low rainfall, so they have become experts in dry climate and sustainable gardening.David comes from a long line of gardeners. He was born and raised in Lambley, Nottinghamshire, England (hence the name of the nursery), where his father was a jobbing gardener and one of his uncles a Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, while another uncle ran a nursery. David moved to Australia when he was 21 years old and worked for a number of nurseries in Qld, NSW and Victoria , as well as working as a gardener in Melbourne. He then ran a wholesale plant nursery at Olinda, where he met his future wife Criss in 1989. Three years later, they moved to the 15 hectare property at Ascot. Criss designed the garden around the 19th century house and with her artists eye is responsible for coordinating all the colours, while David reestablished his nursery and does all the mowing, weeding, planting and pruning. He propagates all his own plants from mother stock grown in the garden or trial beds. Many plants are sourced internationally and propagated after exiting their on-site quarantine facility.The big emphasis at Lambleys is on plant selection to suit the climate and the future effects of global warming. Plants are sourced from Mexico, California, Arizona, South Africa, Australia, Central Asia and Turkey, the Canary islands and Southern Europe. All his plants are frost-hardy. The Central Highlands of Victoria experience their first frost in mid-April and their last frost in mid-November.
His other big emphasis is on soil preparation. David cultivates deeply to 15cm with a rotary hoe, then adds 4-5 inches compost, lime and then mulch- a thin layer (2.5 cm) of composted pine bark around each plant. This Forestry waste product is slightly acid, which perennials love, and is similar to Amgrow’s Biogrow Soil Conditioner.
The Dry Garden display beds are so impressive. Not only are the perennial plantings beautiful with interesting forms, colours and textures, but they are tough and are watered by hand only 3 times a year! The soft grey-blue theme provides harmony. Geraniums, salvias, ixias, lavenders, phlomis, euphorbias, eryngium, acanthus and ornamental grasses grow beneath the shade of olive trees.There is also an extensive organic vegetable garden, which feeds 4 generations of the family, and trial beds of vegetable and flowers seeds to determine which varieties are best suited to the climate. Cut flowers include poppies, peony poppies, sweet peas, delphiniums, yarrow, foxgloves, rose campion, lilies and a variety of bulbs.David sells his plants in 10cm pots direct to the public on site and by mail order. He sends out beautiful glossy catalogues of Early flowering Bulbs and Perennials; Winter/ Spring Bulbs and Perennials and a massive seed catalogue for vegetables, herbs and flowers. He also produces a newsletter for exclusive access to rare and new plants; David Glenn’s Garden Notes, which covers a diverse range of topics including self-sown annuals, garden harmony, Arums, the Flora of Turkey and even recipes. He has also produced instructional DVDs titled : ‘Dry Climate Gardening’ (4 DVDs covering each season); ‘Home Grown : An Australian Vegetable garden’; and ‘The Art of Preserving’.
The shop also sells Criss Canning’s beautiful Art cards, as well as her book ‘The Pursuit of Beauty‘, which is now in its 3rd edition and presents many of her paintings from her 2013 exhibition. She is an amazingly talented still life painter, who is often compared to Margaret Olley, in her approach to flowers, ceramics and textiles. She has paintings in the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, the State galleries in Ballarat, Castlemaine and Cairns, as well as Art Bank and private collections in France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. Her work can be seen at the Philip Bacon Galleries.