Last week, we started looking at some of the beautiful private country gardens, which we visited during our time in Victoria. Here are a few more stunning gardens:
1. Villa Lettisier
1936 Boneo Rd Flinders 0.8 ha (2 acres)
Situated at the end of the Mornington Peninsula, we visited this amazing garden on the morning of 1st November 2009 through the Australian Open Gardens Scheme. Inspired by a love of Italy and the magnificent coastal scenery and clifftop views, the owners built a Palladian-style house (based on the 16th century architecture of Andrea Palladio) on an imposing site and commissioned well-known garden designer, Paul Bangay, to design a formal garden to complement the perfectly symmetrical villa. Originally an old dairy farm, mature pre-existing cypress, oaks and Moreton Bay figs provided a framework for the garden. The grand driveway curves through this parkland, with the odd glimpse of the house and ocean, then straightens up to provide a long formal approach to the gravel forecourt in front of the villa. An old dairy shed was retained as a reminder of the property’s history. I loved the entrance to the walled garden with deep red climbing roses growing against bright ochre walls.
The walled garden provides essential shelter against the coastal winds and echoes the symmetry and formality of the villa. It is divided into a series of garden rooms. The initial forecourt contains climbing and bush roses and a Rugosa hedge of ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’. Leading towards the villa are four beds of pillar roses- two pink and red; two cream and apricot, each with their own obelisk for a climbing rose and many irises. Here, the garden walls are covered with espaliered Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. Olives provide a secondary axis, their silver grey foliage contrasting with the glossy green magnolia leaves. The centre room is created by a huge hedge of Leyland cypress, edged with clipped rosemary. Here the secondary axis is provided by fountains with wisteria. The next room is lined with walls, covered in the fragrant Rugosa rose ‘Roseraie de l’Haie’, one of my favourites, and contains four reflection pools.There are two more walled areas: a delightful formal vegetable garden and a long aqua pool, set in grass. The vegetable garden is entered through a tunnel, formed by espaliered fruiting pear trees, trained over a metal arch.
The walls are covered with espaliered lemon trees and the four garden beds divided by low hedges of box, lavender and curry plants. Obelisks, in the centre of the beds, support apple trees.
The long skinny pool is lined with a hedge of box, in front of walls covered with fruiting figs.And then, there were the mind-blowingly, stunning perennial borders either side of the walls, a later addition to the overall design and continuing the symmetry, equilibrium and balance of the garden. Gates were put into the walls on either side to access the perennial beds and hedges of olive trees protect the borders. One side was all pastel colours, while the other side featured a bold, dramatic colour range. This garden is rarely open to the public, but it was open last March as part of the Mornington Peninsula Garden Tour, a full day costing $195 per person and run by Open Gardens Victoria and featuring four gardens : The Garden Vineyard already discussed; Rick Eckersley’s Musk Cottage, a garden I have yet to visit and not to be confused with Musk Farm Garden, described later in this post; Cruden Farm (see : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/08/02/part-2-favourite-private-gardens-historic-gardens-part-2/ ) and Villa Lettisier. Who knows, maybe you might be able to get a personalised tour, like we did with the gardener’s friendly basset hound, Bella!2. Barb and Pete’s Garden
283 Keys Rd Flinders 1.2 ha (3 acres)
The same day (1st November 2009), we visited Barbara and Peter Labb’s garden, also open through the Open Gardens Scheme and equally impressive, but in a totally different way. Peter and Barbara bought the small farm in 1994.There was an established garden and windbreaks along the driveway and the south side of the house, as well as young plantations of Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus ovata) in the damp gullies of the paddocks. Barb and Pete were keen to link the garden with the paddock plants to create a wildlife corridor, and to this end, they built an informally shaped dam with a floating island and planted the dam walls with native trees and the house paddock with hardy shrubs with aromatic foliage and nectar-producing flowers. They now have plenty of birds and six frog species frequenting the dam.There was also a long preexisting pergola, which initially finished at the start of the paddock. It was extended in 2004 to connect the old garden with the newer parts of the garden. The pergola is covered in climbing roses. Pete and Barb love their old roses and have planted over 200 different types from old-fashioned Ramblers to Rugosas and Species roses, like the wonderful hedge of Stanwell Perpetual, which lines the driveway (Photo 4). Photo 5 is Mutabilis. They are under-planted with lots of drought-tolerant annuals and perennials: self-seeding poppies and forget-me-nots; geraniums and catmints; culinary herbs like borage, thyme and lemon verbena and companion plants for pest control (pyrethrum and nasturtiums). They use comfrey, with its deep roots, to bring up nutrients from the subsoil, and mulch to break down the heavy clay soil. Dense planting also shades the soil and prevents runoff. The lawn is planted with an avenue of claret ash. Asparagus, rhubarb and sweet peas are planted in the vegetable garden and there is a worm farm and beehives, as well as a new orchard.In 2004, their son David built a glass shed, timber studio and loggia, overlooking the dam, for family gatherings. The new garden around the buildings was designed with climate change in mind and contains native flora and succulents amongst the gravel. It even has its own little creek with its own ecosystem. It is an interesting garden with lots of colour and texture and lots of grasses and sedges. I loved all the sculptures. I also loved the fire pit and the seating and the huge plate glass windows, looking into the garden and over the dam –a perfect position to view all the visiting wildlife and unwind!
3. Musk Farm
11 School Rd. Musk Between Trentham and Daylesford 3.5 acre garden, 32 ha property
http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s3711069.htmWe visited another inspirational garden on 25th October 2009 : Musk Farm, which was created on an old school playground by Stuart Rattle, a leading Australian interior designer. The 1871 rural school was closed in 1992 and the school gardens, for which the students had won numerous awards, fell into disrepair and were smothered by weeds and blackberries. When Stuart bought the place in 1998, there was a windbreak of mature Monterey Cypress trees, a large Blue Cedar planted in the late 1870s; a school oval, an old tennis court, a toilet block (which became a potting shed), a small shelter shed from the 1950s (which was transformed into a Summer House) and miles of concrete paths. The map comes from the Musk Farm garden guide book, which we bought on the day that we visited.
He renovated the 1870s schoolhouse, then developed a beautiful romantic garden, inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. A series of defined areas are integrated into a whole by walkways, interconnecting architectures, extensive hedging and garden ornamentation.The garden is more formal on the upper areas near the house and becomes increasingly informal toward the wild and wooded areas beyond the old oval. The garden displays strong design principles, as well as allowing Stuart to indulge in his individual plant passions (eg his collections of Galanthus, Rhododendrons and Viburnums).
With rich volcanic soil, a cool climate and an annual rainfall of 1000 mm, Stuart was spoilt for choice when it came to plant selection, although the long drought from 2001 to 2009 was a major challenge for the lawn and the rhododendrons! The garden is constantly changing and evolving. The 14 garden rooms include : a Motor Court; a Rondel; a Trellis Garden; a Shade Garden; a Summer Garden; a Terrace; a Picking Garden; a Chestnut Lawn and Viburnum Border; a Pear Walk (Manchurian Pears, under-planted with Hypericum); a Court Garden on the old tennis court; Galanthus beds; a Rhododendron Garden; the Oval and Basin (a pond replacing the old school cricket pitch); a Woodland with thousands of daffodils and bluebells; and an Autumn Garden. The rooms are divided by large clipped hedges of English Box (Buxus sempervirens), Viburnum tinus, and the traditional Edwardian hedging plant, Privet (Ligustrum vulgare). There are so many treasures in this garden from the rare Galanthus to some of my favourite climbing old roses and species roses ; the viburnum and rhododendron collections; the tree fuschias, hellebore species, self-seeding aquilegia, dwarf gladioli and bearded iris. I particularly loved the Picking Garden with its twin blue urns, the masses of recurrent scented roses and buddlejas, dianthus, geranium, herbaceous peonies and a 4o year old Tree Peony.Unfortunately, Stuart met an untimely end in 2013 and Musk Farm Garden was sold in 2014. While it may not be possible to visit the garden, you can visit it in a book, recently written by Paul Bangay, called ‘Stuart Rattle’s Musk Farm’, now available online on Paul’s website: http://www.paulbangay.com.au/stuart-rattles-musk-farm-now-available/
24 Hague’s Rd Barkers Creek 20 acre property; 2 to 3 acre garden Ph (03) 5474 2747
I was blown away by this beautiful Mediterranean garden, which we visited on 31st October, 2009, as part of the Castlemaine and District Festival of Gardens Inc. Max and Margaret Beyer bought the land in 1980, after spending 7 months with their two young daughters on the Greek island of Cephalonia. They had previously spent 8 months in Greece, back in the mid 1960s, and had a love affair with the Mediterranean style and way of life.They built a two-storey mud brick house over a period of 20 years, starting in 1983, and by 2000, the garage/gallery and Margaret’s stained glass studio were completed. They were keen to be as self-sufficient as possible and are totally reliant on their own solar power, with the odd use of a backup generator in Winter. Heating (and cooking) is provided by a slow combustion heater, with a hydronic heating system attached, and they have a solar hot water system. They planted 260 olive trees of 3 different varieties : ‘Barouni’; ‘Californian Queen’ and an Italian variety ‘Fratoia’ along the gravel driveway in 1981, having to hand-water every single one by bucket during the 1981 to 1982 drought, but it was worth it, as they produced 125 litres of olive oil from the 2014 crop.The north-facing terrace garden in front of the house was the first part of the garden to be planted, but the combination of drought and the hard, compacted clay soil made growth difficult and slow. The climate of Central Victoria is very similar to the Mediterranean climate with short, clear seasons: a cool sunny Spring with showers; hot dry Summers; a rainy Autumn, which can have crisp sunny days and wet cold Winters, also with crisp sunny days. The garden owes much of its success to clever plant selection, soil improvement with organic mushroom compost and old cow manure and heavy mulching, with a 7 cm layer of pea straw, cane or lucerne, to reduce water evaporation and keep the soil cool. Most of the plants are hardy and drought-tolerant.Here is a photograph of a map of the garden, taken from page 172 of ‘Gardens of the Goldfields: A central Victorian Sojourn’ by Mandy Stroebel (2010) :The house is shaded in the front by a large post-and-beam pergola, covered in the Cherokee Rose, Rosa laevigata, a white muscat grapevine and a purple wisteria, grown from cuttings of an old vine on a house near Barkers Creek School.
Earthen pots and elegant urns hold colourful succulents and bonsai conifers, which thrive in the dappled shade underneath the pergola. The use of large terracotta pots is repeated throughout the garden and reinforces the Mediterranean feel.The front garden is divided into three terraces by sandstone walls, built by local stone mason, Russell Jenkins. Recycled brick, sandstone steps and gravel (locally sourced from Dunolley) paths wind through the garden beds and terraces to the olive grove and down to a tranquil dam with a sandy beach and a wooden jetty, whose steps are flanked by bowls of succulents. The dam is fringed with yellow water iris, grevilleas, birch and willow and white gums and is set against a backdrop of blue gums, paperbarks and almonds. Max buried water pipes under all the garden beds and driveways, so that every single drop of water feeds into the dam. Above the dam are two smaller ponds, which filter the water en route and are lined with prostrate grevilleas, water iris, grasses and small trees.
The terrace garden is a mixture of native and exotic plants and trees : tightly clipped, rounded forms of white cistus, hebes, grevilleas, westringia and salvias and soft flowing plantings of old roses; self-seeded Flanders poppies and Queen Anne’s Lace; artemisias and echiums , bearded iris; euphorbias; lavenders, carpet thyme and rosemary are set against accent plants, like the upright punctuation marks of pencil pines and the structural shapes of cordylines, yuccas and New Zealand flax plants.
A tall curved wall, between the house front and the garage, divides the terrace garden and the studio garden and protects a mature lemon tree from frost.
It is covered with buttercup-yellow ‘Mermaid’ rose blooms in Spring and Summer and has an arched gateway, topped with a tiny belfry, redolent of Mediterranean villages, and iron gates designed by local artist, Trefor Prest, which lead from the eastern courtyard to the gallery/garage and Margaret’s studio.
A porch with a balcony and wrought iron balustrade, added in 2005, reinforces the Mediterranean feel. The bank below the garage/ gallery is covered in rock and planted with ground covers and thymes.The studio garden overlooks a natural reflective pond and contains a Japanese maple, a white Judas Tree and a Sorbus, which has white Spring flowers and orange Autumn berries. There are plans to build a wooden Japanese bath house behind the garage.The vegetable garden is directly behind the house and is very productive in Spring and Autumn with carrots, lettuce, broccoli, chard, garlic and Spring and brown onions, mixed in with sweet peas, oriental and Flanders poppies, lavender and sunflowers. Summer vegetable gardening is limited by the heat and the hot dry winds. The vegetable bed is edged with dry sandstone walls and screened from the house by the southern embankment, which has been planted up with native and exotic shrubs and plantings including: a Chinese Pistaccio, a flowering cherry and dogwoods; coastal banksias, correas, bottlebrush and grevilleas; ceanothus; hardenbergias; roses; hollyhocks, wall flowers and self-seeded Californian poppies. Other deciduous trees in the garden include oaks, a Japanese Pagoda tree, an Albizia with lime-green flowers, a Manchurian pear and a medlar.
Lixouri is a very impressive garden with a lovely warm feel and is well worth visiting if you get a chance. The garden is open by arrangement or can be visited during the annual Castlemaine and District Festival of gardens Inc. This year’s festival is from 29th October to the 6th November 2016. See : http://www.festivalofgardens.org/.
These are only a small number of the amazing gardens we saw in Victoria and I haven’t even started on the other Australian states! I will also be writing a few in-depth posts in the future on individual gardens like Red Cow Farm, Sutton Forest, Southern NSW, and Glenrock, Tenterfield, Northern NSW. Next month, I will be focusing on specialty private gardens.