There are so many beautiful country gardens in Australia and many highly talented gardeners and garden designers. The wide variety of climatic conditions, altitudes and soil types allow for a huge variation in gardens and the size of country gardens is only limited by the time required to maintain them. During our sojourn in Victoria from 2009 to 2014 , we were lucky enough to visit a large number of gardens through the Australian Open Gardens Scheme and local garden festivals , including the Castlemaine and District Festival of Gardens Inc. and the Dandenongs Garden Festival. Fortunately, it is still possible to visit these gardens through these local festivals and Open Gardens Victoria has taken up where the Australian Open Garden Scheme left off, though the number of open gardens is greatly reduced. Some properties have since been sold or are up for sale and some are or have become accommodation, so it is still possible to visit most of them, even if it does cost a bomb! I guess at least you get them to yourselves, rather than having to contend with huge crowds! Because this post is so large, I have divided it into two sections:
Part 1 : Beechmont; Westport; Bringalbit; Corinella Country House; and The Garden Vineyard
Part 2 : Villa Lettisier; Barb and Pete’s Garden; Musk Farm; and Lixouri
12 Mernda Rd Olinda (3km from Olinda) 4.05 Ha (of which the garden is 2.3 hectares)Illustrated map from Open Gardens visit.
We visited this lovely garden on the 11th October 2009, as part of the Dandenongs Garden Festival: Inspiring in Spring, and it certainly was! At the time, it was owned by Simon and Marcia Begg, who bought the hilltop garden with its 1970s house and separate 2 bedroom cottage in January 1997.The flat area on the north side of the house already had established garden beds containing viburnums, rhododendrons, edgeworthii, camellias, magnolias, cornus and other exotics. There were a number of large native and exotic trees including Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans); Blackwood Wattle (Acacia melanoxylon); a very tall Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera); a Bunya Bunya Pine and Hoop Pine and 8o year old Beech trees of the Fagus and Nothofagus genera, hence the name: ‘Beechmont’. Marcia and Simon were keen to collect as many beeches from both genera as possible.Most of their initial efforts were directed to the south side of the house, converting an old horse paddock to sweeping lawns and garden beds with strong vistas and focal points and a natural progression from one are to the next. At the front of the house, a blue crystal-glazed porcelain urn marks the top of a serpentine rill (pebble water run), which flows down the hill to a large reflective pond.They raised many of the plants themselves, including shrubs, cottage garden plants and Vireya rhododendrons. Garden beds are heavily mulched and watered by drip irrigation. An irrigation bore, installed in 2004, was a godsend during the drought and is supplemented by large rain water tanks.In 2002, they remodelled the old tennis court on the north side of the house into a walled garden with a central pond and perennial borders, affectionately dubbing the project ‘the SKI garden’ (‘Spending the Kids Inheritance’). The old tennis court fence is clothed in clematis and wisteria. The entrance is marked with the owners’ initials. The walled garden is connected to the South Garden by the Blueberry Avenue, which contains scented plants and a daphne collection.In 2006, the nursery was replaced with a parterre garden, inspired by Alice In Wonderland. Hedged flower beds in the shape of card suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades) frame a central garden bed with a terracotta urn. Two recently-released Wollemi Pines, Wollemi nobilis, were planted in the north and south lawn. Smaller beds were extended to get the proportions right in the garden and the hen yard became another Vireya garden. In 2009. a new shade house and propogation bed for vireyas was built.Other features of the garden include: a hidden secret garden; a wheel parterre; a native garden with spectacular views as far as the Mornington Peninsula on a clear day; a South African bed; a rare plants bed; a bed of maples and deciduous azaleas; a rockery with small ponds and quirky sculptures throughout the garden.In November 2012, the Beggs sold to Cherrie Miriklis, the owner of Flowers Vasette, the well-known Fitzroy florist (http://flowersvasette.com.au/). Read her story on : http://www.yarravalleymagazine.com.au/beechmont-olinda/.
The house, now known as Beechmont Garden Retreat, is used for luxury accommodation. See : http://www.vrgetaways.com.au/beechmont-gardens/.
74 Ferrier Rd New Gisborne 1.6 ha (4 acres) 3km to Gisborne; 52 km to Melbourne CBD.
Set at the foot of Mt. Macedon, Westport is another lovely garden to visit in the Spring-time. We discovered this garden on 8th September 2014. At the time, it was owned by Neil Robertson, who was the National Executive Officer of the Australian Open Gardens Scheme from 1990 to 2010. He did have the property on the market in October 2014, so I don’t know if he still owns it. His forebears by marriage, the Ferrier-Hamiltons, were the original squatters in the area in the 1840s and when Thomas Ferrier-Hamilton died, he left each child 80 acres of land. His son, Vereker, who married Neil’s Great Aunt Nina, in 1898, built a country house on his portion. Vereker and Nina were keen gardeners and planted many trees, which still exist today: pines on the Western boundary; oaks lining the driveway; pinoaks near the house; a weeping elm; a large collection of Arbutus and a grove of silver birches, as well as thousands of daffodils, some bred by Alister Clark.Neil bought Westport from a cousin 32 years ago. The house had been let for 25 years and the middle storey of the original garden had disappeared, except for 5 camellias, a couple of rhododendrons, a winter woodbine and roses. Over the past 30 years, Neil planted more trees, shrubs and bulbs within the framework of the old garden, defined by the mature trees. Shrubberies screen garden rooms, creating surprise and illusion across the flat site. Plants had to cope with poor drainage, frosts, hot Summers and hot, dry northerly winds.Shrubs include : camellias, viburnums, daphne, spireae, magnolis, forsythias, Winter woodbine, wintersweet, chaenomeles and lots of old roses! There are hellebores and masses of bulbs- daffodils, muscari and bluebells.And lots of pot plants.3a.Bringalbit
512 Sidonia Rd Sidonia via Kyneton 4 ha garden Susan Fox Ph (03) 5423 7223
We first discovered this lovely garden on 6th September 2009, as part of the annual Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival, then stayed here in a delightful old rustic cottage on the weekend of the 6th – 7th June 2014. This historic property on the granite hills, 18 km north of Kyneton, is owned by the Fox family and has an 1870s granite homestead and 10 acres (4 ha) of parkland and garden, developed over 130 years. Here is Susan’s map of the property, which hangs on the wall of the cottage, as well as photos of Susan and her dogs.
Originally 1263 acres of land, the property was settled by John Apperley in 1858. Between 1866 and 1877, the current homestead was built in stages by John Lang, starting in 1871. William Fysh, who owned the property between 1887 and 1908, landscaped the lake and planted the surrounding parkland with oaks, deodars, pine windbreaks and poplar stands. Exotic trees surround the ornamental lake, which looks beautiful in December with its pink and white water lilies in flower. The walk down to the lake is enhanced by a mass planting of deep roses, salvias and agapanthus on the embankment of the old tennis court. The 1km long driveway is lined with Mahogany Gums.The Fox family bought the property in 1990 and restored the house and garden. There were no garden beds, so they developed a paddock on the northern side of the house into a garden, containing a crab apple walk, a quince walk, shrubs and perennial borders, a vegetable garden, an olive grove and an orchard. They used lichen covered honey-colored stone, quarried on the property, to build walls, steps and terraces.Susan is an artist and her touch can be seen in perennial border at the front of the house, which has a blue-and-grey colour scheme with lavenders, delphiniums and forget-me-nots. Cecile Brunner, Iceberg and Sea Foam roses climb up the verandah poles. Round the back of the house, stone walls edge a lavender garden with rose standards of Penelope and Delicata, under-planted with shrub rose, Honey Flow, and David Austin’s Mary Rose. The north-facing sunny terrace beds are filled with roses, lavenders, dianthus and gaura and edged with the silver-foliaged Snow-in-Summer. An arbour, covered with a Mme Alfred Carrière rose, leads to a scented garden, surrounded by lilac, and a parterre of santolina, set off by a weeping white hawthorne. I would love to see this garden in Summer for all its old roses! There was still an old bloom of Souvenir de St Anne during our Winter stay (1st photo below).The 50 metre long Crab Apple Walk rises from a double perennial border of mauve, white and pink Spring blooms, followed by white and blue agapanthus, lemon evening primroses and red hot pokers in Summer. The 60 metre long Quince Walk is spectacular in Spring (flowers) and Autumn (fruit and Autumn foliage) and leads to an old gate overlooking the Cobaw Hills. The daffodil walk is a highlight in September and leads to an original stone shed, shaded by an huge old evergreen oak, Quercus canariensis. There are many pots of succulents on the blue stands next to the shed and beside the house. Peacocks, guinea fowl, bantams and chooks free-range the garden, while cats snooze in the sun on the cottage verandah and long-horned Highland Cattle and black-faced sheep graze the surrounding paddocks. The old chook house is smothered by Lamarque, a lemony-scented Noisette rose. Bringalbit has an historic old shearing shed, numerous farm buildings and a range of self-contained accommodation options. We stayed in the Gardeners Cottage beside the main house (a very reasonable tariff of $115 per night) and the décor was delightfully eclectic and quaint! I would highly recommend staying there! There is also self-contained accommodation in the Shearers’ Shack and Woolshed Hill House and for a bit of old-fashioned luxury, bed-and-breakfast in the grand old house. The website has a terrific video about the house and garden. The garden and shearing shed are available for weddings, parties and corporate functions. It is also open to the public every weekend 10am-4pm and weekdays by appointment at $5 per head. If you are visiting during the Kyneton Daffodil Festival, it is also worth visiting nearby ‘Corinella’:
3b. Corinella Country House
998 Kyneton-Metcalfe Rd Green Hill Ph (03) 5423 2474 or 0438 269 651
First farmed in the 1870s and owned by Sue and Steve Wright, the 130 year old house has been fully restored and is now a guest house. Self-catering and bed-and-breakfast options are available. See: http://www.corinella.net/. The 2 acre garden has no lawn, just gravel paths winding through established old trees (planted in the 1900s), shrubs and masses of bulbs. In Spring, the garden is a sea of gold and blue! 4.The Garden Vineyard
174 Graydens Rd. Moorooduc 1.5 hours from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula 1ha
Phone : (03) 5978 8661 or 0408 351 809
http://www.gardenvineyard.com.au/While a little too formal and ordered for me, yet very bold and dramatic, this garden is very famous and has been described as one of the ten best gardens in Australia by Don Burke (http://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/gardens/garden-vineyard-2/#) and is featured on Monty Don’s Round the World in 80 Gardens. See: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwzd7r_around-the-world-in-80-gardens-2-australia-and-new-zealand_lifestyle. (31 minutes into the video). The map above is from our visit on the day.It was recommended to us by my sister, who raved about it, so we visited it on the 11th April 2010, which was very fortuitous, as it was the last weekend that the garden was open to the public (as well as the first time it had opened in Autumn). Its owners, Di and Doug Johnson, were selling and they opened it to thank the Australian Open Garden Scheme for all their support. The day before (10th April), 1200 visitors turned up! Little wonder that Di looked so exhausted!!! Di is English, so when they bought the property in 1996, she was keen to establish an English-style garden. The sparse farmland only had a couple of Eucalyptus scoparia and Spotted Gum, Eucalyptus maculata, as well as sheoaks, banksias and 1 acre Pinot Noir grapes. The top soil was thin and acidic and had a mix of shale and gravel underneath, locally known as spew, which compacts in Summer and turned to mush in Winter. Add to this the westerly orientation of the block with baking afternoon sun and only 600-750 mm annual rainfall and they certainly faced an uphill challenge! With the help of landscape designer Robert Boyle and gardener Martin Edney and plants bought from Lambley Nursery and Clive Blazely’s Diggers catalogue, Di and Doug have created a wonderful garden with a strong architectural structure of different garden rooms, bound by tall hedges and perfectly clipped plant shapes, sustainable plantings and stunning vistas. Symmetry is achieved with the repetition of plants in different sections of the garden design eg the clipped balls of westringia throughout the garden and lemon-scented gums repeated in different garden rooms. The soil has been improved over the years by applying copious amounts of horse and chook manure. A slow release complete fertilizer is raked in in late Winter, only becoming active when the soil temperature reaches 21-23 degrees. Pellets of ‘Organic Life’ are applied in early April and late Winter and lime is added to the soil every few years. The garden borders are watered by drip irrigation.Di started with the walled garden, which was inspired by a Mediterranean garden in Provence, created by Nicole de Vésian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZQWbQ0QhRg) and featuring a colour palette of grey and green tones, sculpted plants and stone walls, benches and balls. They excavated the boggy ground and built walls with English bond brickwork. The walled garden was replanted 2 ½ years before our visit with plants with low water needs, including lagerstroemias, clipped globes of Pittosporum tobira (under-planted with Mondo grass) and bush germander, Teucrium fruticans, natural mounds of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Grosso’, regular and prostrate rosemary, cistus, Buddleia crispa and Berberis thunbergia. They designed a small gravel courtyard to the west of the walled garden, surrounded by a hedge of drought-tolerant escallonia (Escallonia iveyi), then turned their attention to a long grass walk with perennial and shrub borders, full of heliotropes (Heliotropium arborescens), salvias (Salvia x sylvestris ‘Lubecca’ and Salvia x superba ‘Superba’), achilleas (Achillea millefolium ‘Fanal’), echiums (Echium candicans), cardoons (Cynara cardunculus), agastaches, grasses and roses. The long grass walk is connected to the formal areas by an avenue of lemon-scented gums, under-planted with lavender, helichrysum, echiums, westringia and artemisia, all drought-tolerant plants. The formal Italianate Garden was created next with silver borders and clipped lillypilly standards, Syzgium australe. The final addition to the garden was an Australian native garden, created by daughter Jenny and filled with acacias, grevilleas, banksias, hakeas, eucalypts, correas, lillypillys, eriostemons, teucriums, wattles, buddlejas and westringias. There is also a vegetable garden.A seat at the southern end of the garden provides a view through the silver borders and formal garden over the Australian garden to the Mt Eliza ridge. There is also a lovely view from the terrace over the lawn to the vineyard. The latter was extended to 3 acres with 1 acre Pinot Gris grape vines and a copse of silver birches, Betula pendula ‘Jack Moss’, was planted at the entrance to the property. Pierre de Ronsard roses climb the verandah posts of the house and are under-planted with Lavandula stoechas ‘Ploughmans’ Purple’.
Sue and Daryl McFall bought the property in October 2010. The garden can still be visited for prearranged groups of 12 people at $20 per head.
Next week, I will be posting Favourite Private Country Gardens: Part 2 , which will cover the wonderful gardens of Villa Lettisier; Barb and Pete’s Garden; Musk Farm; and Lixouri.