It has been a very mild Summer so far, though I suspect it is about to get hotter! Apart from the odd day in the late 30s/ early 40s, it has been more like a late Spring, which has been wonderful for gardening and has given us the opportunity to clean up and reorganize the cutting garden, which had started to get out of control! We have now moved all the Narcissi to their own little patches under trees and the ends of the pergola and arches, and the old freesias to their own bank, bordering the car parking flat, where they can run riot and naturalize to their heart’s content! We have divided all the replicating Dutch Iris, tulips and anemones, which we then replanted throughout all the newly dug beds. I was surprised how many new bulbs there were and hope they all bloom successfully next Spring! We transplanted the self-sown feverfew seedlings down the centre of the Dutch Iris and old zinnia beds and moved the latter’s self-sown seedlings on a very cool day to their own patch behind the dahlias in the recent peony poppy bed, leaving a few seedpods of the latter to dry out for seed. The zinnias are such tough plants and all have survived and are set to bloom in January. We were also fortunate in that another self-sown sunflower seedling is blooming in the same spot as last year and we have sowed the seed of some bright scarlet Mexican Sunflowers Tithonia on either side of the Helianthus annuus. They may not be successful, as the packet stipulates sowing them in Spring, but given the cooler weather we have been experiencing, I decided to give it a shot and see what happens! All going well, it should be a stunning display late Summer. The dahlias have already put on a wonderful show. I love all their rich vivid colours, as well as their more muted, softer pastel shades. They make wonderful bouquets for the house and the Christmas table! I also made a lovely, wild, blowsy bouquet from the early Summer flowers in the Soho and Moon Beds : bright blue Cornflowers, paler blue flowering salvia, mauve wallflowers, pretty white feverfew daisies, pink peony poppies and the seedpods of the latter and Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’. While we are still getting the odd peony poppy in the Soho Bed, the cutting garden has had masses of stunning ladybird Poppies, interspersed with a few self-sown Iceland Poppy seedlings from last year. The Soho Bed has settled down from its early November peak, but it still has nice colour with the roses (Lolita, Mr Lincoln and The Childrens’ Rose), and bergamot (photo 1), stachys and blue flowering salvia, replacing the wallflowers and the geum Lady Stratheden (photo 2). We have two other blue salvias in the Moon Bed : Indigo Spires, which we bought from the nursery at Foxglove Spires, and a light blue variety, grown from a cutting from my sister’s old garden. They contrast well with the white feverfew daisies and the gold daylilies, also given to me by my sister, along with this unusual flower, whose identity I have yet to ascertain. Any suggestions? Elsewhere in the garden, roses in bloom include : Autumn Delight (photo 1) and Penelope are reflowering in the white hybrid musk hedge; Frau Dagmar Hastrup (photo 2) in the rugosa hedge; Devoniensis on the pergola (photo 3); and Alister Stella Gray (photo 4) in preparation for its future entrance arch! However, the standouts of the Summer Garden are the cooling blues and whites : the blue Convovulus maritima and the Madonna lilies with their pure white trumpets and gold stamens, heralding the start of Summer. They look so beautiful with the sun shining through their petals; The potted gardenia at the back door with its sumptuous white blooms with their exotic sharp spicy sweet scent, which always reminds me of Christmas!; The white and blue blooms of the agapanthus bank, flowering in tandem with the mauve and white Acanthus mollis; and the soft blue shade of the new hydrangeas, their huge bushes showing great promise; and finally, the honey-drenched blooms of the pink and mauve buddleias down the path, constantly full of butterflies, bees and wasps! We have also had a few exciting surprises! Our new hosta Peter Pan has flowered with sprays of mauve flowers, which complement its blue-green foliage; Our dogwood Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ has bloomed for the very first time. Its green buds turn white, and finally a deep pink by the end of Summer; The Sprekelia (Jacobean Lily) bulb nearby at the bottom of the steps has grown back after disappearing for a long while, after a mishap with the whipper-snipper, and most exciting of all … we discovered that we actually have more Jacobean Lilies, with an up-till-then unidentified bulb at the end of the tulip bed coming into bloom with its distinctive red flower, another Christmas treat! While the NSW Christmas Bush flowers have yet to turn red (delayed due to the cold I suspect!), Lady X grevillea (photo 2) is doing the right thing with masses of red blooms for visiting honeyeaters, while the wattlebirds love my neighbour’s red hot pokers (Kniphofia), another Christmas flower (photo 1). The newly transplanted lemon verbena is also in full bloom and the rainforest plants are growing madly, including this beautiful staghorn on the loquat tree. Other garden stalwarts include the bromeliads, the pinks and geranium Rosalie in the Treasure Bed and the honeysuckle climbers on the fence. With so much in flower, the bees and butterflies are in seventh heaven. The fruit trees and vegetable garden are a mecca for the bats and the birds, though huge breeding flocks of Little Corellas and Galahs have taken over the trees, recently vacated motels for visiting flying foxes, which have now mostly disappeared to raid other areas. The skies are full of these noisy party acrobats, with the odd Sulphur-Crested and Yellow-Tailed Black cockatoo cousins joining in. The King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas are enjoying the scarlet Duranta berries, while the Satin Bowerbirds have been feasting on our beans and raspberries! This beautiful immature Crimson Parrot sent us scurrying to our bird books to confirm its identity!We were very excited when some White-Faced Herons decided to build a twiggy nest platform, high in the Black Cottonwood tree, though I suspect these two were visiting youngsters, as they don’t have the white adult face. We watch the parents’ changing of the guard (they share incubation duties) from our vantage point on the verandah. Apparently, the incubation period is 21 to 24 days, so hopefully, we will have some new baby herons for the New Year! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying a relaxing break. All our very Best Wishes for 2017! xxx
And now, for our final two gardens, both relatively young and both collectors’ gardens: Perennial Hill and Chinoiserie!
1 Nero St. Mittagong Ph 0409244200 or 0413004740 1 acre
September to March: September Open Daily 10am – 4pm; October to November Open weekends; December Open the first two weekends; then finally, an Autumn Festival in April.
$8 Adults; $7 Seniors; Under 16 years old: Free.
Established on the sunny side of Mt. Gibraltar in 2001 by Craig and Julie Hulbert, Perennial Hill has been described as ‘a jewel in the making’ and also contains many rare botanical treasures. Craig has had his own landscaping business for many years, while Julie has extensive horticultural experience, having worked in a number of nurseries. Her passion is perennials, while Craig’s love is rockery plants and conifers and together, they have been able to indulge those interests in a series of rooms with different themes and styles. Even though it is only 1 acre and still a relatively new garden, it feels much larger and older. It is amazing that when they first built their house, it was a completely bare paddock with a few eucalypts on the lower bottom corner and a small grouping at the top of the block. The garden is situated on a steep exposed slope and has good volcanic soil and good drainage. From the road and entry, only the conifer area and rockery garden is visible, but there is so much more, hidden behind high Leyland Cypress hedges. On one side of the house is a walled garden and rose avenue and on the other side, a potting shed and propagating area. The area behind the house is more level and is cooler, wetter and shadier than the front, allowing a totally different set of plants to flourish. There is a French parterre, topiared shapes and poplar hurdles and dry stone walls, as well as a sunken garden with a dwarf Mondo grass floor, and double mixed perennial and shrub borders. Perennials include: Pulmonarias; Campanulas; Salvias; Geums; Penstemons; Filipendulas; Monardas; Lysimachias; Francas; Helianthus and Rudbeckias. Other plants include: Ranunculus; Leucadendrons; and Echiums with Digitalis. I loved all the different combinations with a strong emphasis on colour and texture, as well as light and shade. I also like all the garden accessories from birdcages to pots and statues.Craig and Julie have a large collection of Sambucus and Cornus, including the rare Cornus alternifolia argentea. They also have some very rare trees including: Dacrydium cupressinum (New Zealand Rimu) , Cunninghamiana lanceolata (China Fir); Cedrus atlantica glauca pendula (Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar); Abies lasiocarpa compacta (Dwarf Arizona Fir); Cedrela sinensis (Chinese Cedar); Pseudolarix amabilis (Japanese Larch) and Fagas sylvatica pendula (Weeping Beech).Julie runs a number of propagating workshops, as well as workshops with titles like: Gardening in a Cool Climate; Creating a Summer Border; and An Introduction to Perennials, which covers the main family groups; use of perennials in the garden; soil preparation prior to planting; ongoing maintenance and pests and diseases. They have a market stall, as well as selling plants and gift ware in their garden shop in the house. They are also opened the garden for the inaugural Rare Plants Market Day on the last weekend of November. I look forward to seeing the development of this garden over the next few years. Julie and Craig are a lovely couple and very generous with their knowledge and time. They are constantly looking at new ideas to incorporate in their garden. Their new herbaceous perennial garden was inspired by Alan Bloom’s garden at Bressington, Norfolk, one of the 42 gardens they visited during a recent 5 week trip overseas. If you would like to see more photos, Australian Country Magazine wrote an article on this beautiful garden in their November issue.
23 Webb St Mittagong 1.25 acres
Ph (02) 4872 3003; 0412 507547; 0411 783883
Late September to the end of November 10 am to 4.30 pm $7 per adult
Not far away from Perennial Hill is another plant collector’s garden, established by Chris Styles and Dominic Wong in 1999 and specializing in peonies! They grow over 100 varieties of peonies from Chinese and Japanese Tree Peonies, which flower from mid-September to mid-October; European and American Tree Peonies, which bloom from mid-October to early November and Herbaceous Peonies, which finish the peony season from early to late November. The peony nursery is close to the house, the umbrellas shading the blooms from the intense sun. This pink peony is Hanabi from Japan.We visited this lovely garden last Autumn, but while we were in the area this weekend, we popped in for a quick sniff of the peonies, which were in full Spring bloom. Not all peonies are scented, so I was keen to smell them before making any decisions on peony selection, as tree peonies are quite expensive. They certainly have an unusual scent and I was really pleased that I made the effort to check and could now open the whole ballpark as far as peony choice was concerned. I loved the white ones and coral ones, but the deep reds were also very attractive! The first photo below is the Japanese Mekoho, while the second photo is Pink Hawaiian Coral.Peonies are the National flower of China and part of Dominic’s heritage, as his mother was Chinese. Apparently, during the early Chinese Dynasties, only the Emperor could grow peonies, so during the Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse Tung ordered the destruction of all peonies, because of their association with the royal family. Fortunately, they were also grown in monastery gardens and monks were able to preserve them, because their roots were used as medicine to purify the blood and treat female problems. The first photo below is Kronos from America. I’m not sure of the identity of the second peony.Dominic honed his horticultural skills on a 500 square metre block (plus the adjoining nature strip!) in Sydney, growing drought-tolerant plants around his Californian bungalow, but was keen for a larger garden and in 1999, bought a vacant block with Chris on sloping land with a creek at the bottom. They built a classic storybook cottage, which they run as a Bed-and-Breakfast with two guestrooms and a choice of an English or Chinese Yum-Cha breakfast. They designed the garden to be seen from the dining room windows, as the Winters are so cold. Here is their map of the overall design:I loved the long formal herbaceous perennial borders, which provide a constant colour from Spring to late Autumn and display great variation in colour, texture and leaf shape. Perennials include: Penstemons, Salvias, Centauras, Euphorbias, Alstroemerias, Phlomis, Oriental Iris, Verbascums, Cannas, Verbenas, Stachys, Scented Geraniums, Abutilon and Tree Lupins. There are also larger perennials like Melianthus, Romneya, Tree Dahlias, Stipa gigantea and Foxtail Lilies. There is also a potager, hedged with Hidcote lavenders, and full of vegetables and herbs; a chook boudoir; formal lawns, a parterre garden, a Chinese garden; a circular rose garden; an angel garden; an alpine garden with Lewisias, Pasque flowers and small alpine plants; a pond and stream garden, which is actually two ponds with a stream in between, growing Astilbes and Hostas, with a Chinese Peony pavilion beside the pond; and a developing woodland with trees like Tulip Tree, a Weeping Willow, a Trident Maple, Gingko, Pear, Birch, Beech, Sopora, Cherry, Judas Tree and Chinese Elm, all under-planted with rhododendrons, azaleas and bluebells. I love the little extra garden furnishings:There are also a number of lovely roses: Mme Grégoire Staechlin over the arbour; Crépuscule with an orange Abutilon neighbour; Lorraine Lea and Duchesse de Brabant on an arch over the path; as well as Abraham Darby , Complicata; Sparrieshoop and Rugspin. Dominic and Chris sell a number of perennials, as well as their main focus: herbaceous and tree peonies.
Other Places to Visit in the Southern Highlands:
Lydie du Bray Antiques
117 Old Hume Highway Braemar, near Mittagong. Ph: (02) 4872 2844
A wonderful selection of imported French antiques and decorative items, housed in the house, outbuildings and garden of Kamilaroi, a turn-of-the-century homestead. We particularly loved all the garden furniture and accoutrements including: garden gates, arbours and gazebos; tables, chairs and benches; statues and fountains; bird baths and bird cages; jardinières, urns and a variety of pots of different types and sizes.Dirty Jane’s
13 – 15 Banquette St Bowral Phone : (02) 4861 3231
A wonderful vintage mecca with over 75 individual dealers in three warehouse spaces. We finally found our four beautiful full-length lounge room curtains in the far corner of one of the sheds and after slight modification from a triple to a double pleat, they fit the windows perfectly and already being fully lined, saved us a mountain of work and expense! The fabric alone (at least 5 metres per curtain), a vintage Sanderson fabric called Salad Days, would cost a mint and is a perfect backdrop for our old cream and silver American Embassy lounge suites, which we found in our local antique shop. The curtains, which ironically were imported from America three weeks beforehand, look so sumptuous in the room and it feels like they have been there forever, even though we still pinch ourselves that we have been so lucky!Country Accents
Home of incredibly life-like artificial flowers, as well as products by Crabtree and Evelyn and Occitaine; candles and soaps; earthenware jugs and glassware.Victoria House Needlecraft
Corner Old Hume Highway and Helena St Mittagong Ph (02) 4871 1682
Open 7 days a week 9am to 5pm and online
A veritable treasure trove for anyone interested in textile crafts with separate rooms devoted to cross-stitch and tapestry; embroidery threads (photo below); knitting wool and needles; beads; and books and patterns.
370 Bong Bong St Bowral Ph 0439 025853
Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm; Saturday 10 am to 4 pm
Beautiful selection of fabrics for dressmaking. I am looking forward to sewing a dress from this beautiful blue and white fabric! The book titled ‘Art and the Gardener‘ is for Christmas, while the book about Glenmore was a birthday present for Ross.
Mt Murray Nursery
Lot 1 Old Dairy Close (off Berrima Road) Moss Vale NSW 2577 Ph ( 02) 48694111
Open 7 days a week 9 am to 5 pm.
Stocks a wonderful range of cool climate plants including maples, conifers and native trees; shrubs like rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias; roses and clematis; hedging plants; fruiting plants; vegetables and herbs; annuals and perennials and pots and ornaments. These are the garden spoils, collected on our trip from the various gardens and nurseries.Manning Lookout
We drove home via Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley. It is well worth taking a short detour up a rough gravel road (Manning Lookout Rd) to a spectacular cliff line and views over Kangaroo Valley.We had a wonderful weekend away in the Southern Highlands and could easily repeat the experience every Spring, revisiting these and other gardens including Retford Park, Milton Park and Camden House! For more on the wonderful open gardens in this area in Spring, as well as opening dates, please see:
For more information about the history of these gardens, it is also worth reading:
Gardens of the Southern Highlands New South Wales 1828 – 1988: A Fine Extensive Pleasure Ground by Jane Cavanough, Anthea Prell and Tim North.
This is the last of my general garden posts for the year. Next year, I will be focusing more on rose gardens. It is also the second last post for 2016! I will be posting the December Garden on Boxing Day. I hope you all have a wonderful relaxing Christmas and a well-earned break for the year! Much Love and Best Wishes to you all, Jane and Ross xxx
While not strictly part of the Southern Highlands, being slightly further north and at a lower altitude, I am describing this wonderful property as part of my Southern Highlands garden post, because it was part of our terrific weekend away- in fact, it was the initial draw card, as its Spring Fair was being held this particular weekend and Glenmore House was only a 45 minute drive from Mittagong, where we were staying.
Moores Way, Glenmore, near Camden
Glenmore House is a very dreamy romantic garden and we were delighted to be able to visit it for their annual Spring Fair, having originally read about Mickey Robinson’s Kitchen Garden in the ABC Organic Garden magazine and subscribing to her blog. Her home and garden are an absolute delight and a must for anyone who loves organic vegetable gardening, as well as old farm buildings! Mickey, an interior decorator, and her husband Larry, a leadership communication consultant, bought the dilapidated old Georgian sandstone cottage (1840) with all its equally dilapidated outbuildings in 1988 and have renovated them all to the wonderful state they are in today. They also developed a beautiful garden with many different spaces, all visible from the house and full of plants, chosen for their scent and the family memories they evoked. Mickey has written about their journey in a beautiful coffee table book called ‘The House and Garden at Glenmore’, which was launched at the Spring Fair and contains many beautiful photographs and very informative text, as well as some delicious recipes! She describes all the different garden areas in detail, which have been illustrated in this map by Catherine O’Neill: Her favourite section is the kitchen garden and she gave us a very interesting tour and talk on the day. She also runs lots of workshops, which are advertised on her website and include:
Kitchen Gardening Days: Seasonal vegetable gardening with Linda Ross: crop rotation; successional planting; staking and structures; pruning; harvesting and storage; seed collection; compost making; pests – basically everything to do with planting and growing produce. Includes a delicious seasonal lunch in the loggia.
Seasonal Cooking Days:
Making stocks and broths: Michelle Schoeps: http://michelleschoepsorganic.blogspot.com.au/
Making risottos; desserts; cordials; jams and marmalades;
Preserving days; Slow Food days; and Tomato days.
Open Garden and Spring Fair
Spring Chamber Music Concerts
Other creative workshops:
Natural Christmas : Christmas decorating and table settings.
Christmas Willow Vines and Foliage workshop with Penny Simons.
Flower Workshops with Jardine Hansen, who arranges lovely blowsy bouquets of seasonal local flowers.
Herbal Garden workshops with Anthia Koullouros, a naturopath and herbalist, who founded Ovvio Teas (http://www.ovvioorganics.com.au/), which are totally organic and certified, and include a range of 38 teas – quite delicious, as we later discovered, having purchased three different varieties at the fair.
Collaborations with Nature: an Ephemeral Art Workshop with Shona Wilson, who creates fascinating artwork. See: http://www.shonawilson.com.au/.
Still Life Painting with Justin Van den Berg.
Natural Dyeing workshops with India Flint: Bag Stories; Botanical Alchemy.
A Journey Round Italy with Stefano Manfredi.We had a wonderful morning exploring all the different sections of the garden, as well as looking at the stalls including :
Secret Garden : Herbs and perennials
Camden Park : Rare plants
Patio Plants : Vegetable seedlings
Sibella Court : Tinkered hardware
Twig Furniture : Rustic garden furnitureMickey was also selling garden tools, baskets, vases, soaps and creams, scented water and and her trademark hat dress and apron from the Barn, the centre of her interior decorating business.Like Red Cow Farm, there is so much to this garden. It is well worth buying her book for more detail, but here are a few photos, illustrating some of our favourite aspects :
1.The Persimmon Lawn at the entrance with its old Silk Floss tree Cebia speciosa; the peppercorn tree, under-planted with orange clivias; a pair of old persimmon trees; an old macadamia tree and a hoop pine.2. The old stone cottage was very sympathetically restored with two new wings, separate to the house, so it did not compromise the integrity of the original dwelling, and so similar in style that it is difficult to discern that they are not original. The front courtyard has a round pond of bulrushes, a dry stone wall and huge dramatic agaves Agave americana. Beautifully- scented frost-tender plants like ginger, ornamental banana, stephanotis, justicia, shell ginger and coral cannas fill the space between the main cottage and the bedroom wing. There is also a bed of Bourbon roses: Mme Isaac Pereire, La Reine Victoria and Souvenir de la Malmaison next to the house.3. The back courtyard with the steps to the gallery flanked by a pair of bay trees; a raised hexagonal stone pond with white lotus Nelumbo nucifera ‘Bliss’; crazy paving; a pair of timber Lutyens-style benches; a copper of Japanese Iris; verandahs clothed in grape vines; and numerous terracotta pots of succulents; pelargoniums; box spheres and pyramids; and mint and chives for the kitchen nearby. I loved its emphasis on white with hybrid musk rose Prosperity, Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ and Viburnum opulus; Hydrangea quercifolia and Japanese windflowers.4. The arc between the house, driveway and paddocks with its old peppercorn tree, yuccas, germander row and sphere; phlomis; romneya; philadelphus; santolina and salvias; Rosa brunonii along the fence; and a firepit.5. The Barn Garden with its Malus ioensis plena in full flower, a White Cedar tree, their daughters’ old cubbyhouse, a juniper hedge, philadelphus, maybush and roses. Rambling rose Félicité et Perpétue grows over the Barn and an espaliered pear tree ‘Sensation’ is trained on the end wall in between topiared balls of cotoneaster. I loved the belfry and the stable doors, painted with auriculas by artist Xanga Connelley.6. The Old Stables, which were converted to a pool house and have a pair of frangipani trees planted on the front wall, under-planted with Gardenia radicans, and a Climbing Cécile Brünner rose over the end of the building. The fence is covered with Trachelospermum jasminoides, with further scent provided by an apricot Datura and an Osmanthus fragrans at the bottom end of the pool enclosure.7. The beautiful 3 metre wide double herbaceous borders, which ran the length of the pool fence and were a riot of colour and scent with plantings of : Daybreak Yoshino Cherry Prunus yedoensis ‘Akebono’; New Zealand Flax Phormium tenax with its strappy bronze leaves; striking stands of Miscanthus sinensis; Rugosa roses Sarah Van Fleet and Fru Dagmar Hastrup; apricot canna lilies and burgundy pompom dahlias; cardoons and Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’; Achillea ‘Moonshine’; pink Valerian; Salvia guaranitica; clary sage; Russian sage Petrovskia atriplicifolia ; pink peony poppies; and Knautia macedonia. The southern end is marked by two timber lattice obelisks, supporting the rose New Dawn and a murraya hedge (bottom photo).8. The Dairy Garden with Iceberg roses, Lavandula angustifolia and a wire heart against the wall. The Dairy now has a semi-commercial kitchen and is used for weddings and workshops.9. The old hayshed, where Martin Boetz put on a splendid lunch for the day.10. The Croquet Lawn, complete with Labyrinth, where the stalls were set up, in front of the orchard of almonds, olives, apples, figs and crab apples, all protected with substantial wire guards.11. The Dairy Garden and Chook Citrus Yard (Valencia and Navel oranges, a Clementine and a grape fruit), a perfect combination as their scratching keeps the citrus surface roots free from weed competition. The chooks have the delightful names of Cabbage and Rose! Ross was very impressed with the picket fence of tomato stakes topped with rusty tin cans. I loved the red walls of the dairy covered with jasmine and the shady garden of Acanthus mollis beneath the huge Peppercorn tree.12. And the pièce de résistance, Mickey’s Kitchen Garden! It was so impressive with its black bamboo and mulberry supporting structures; raised traditional beds with crop rotation from legumes to leafy greens, fruit and root vegetables and the occasional green manure crop and chook cleanup at the end of the season; the intermingled guild beds, which confused the pests; the espaliered fruit trees and apple tunnel; the fully netted raspberry house; and the use of numerous companion plants: wild poppies; fennel; nasturtiums; tansy; wormwood; borage; lovage; calendula; sorrel and oregano.We also loved the behind-the-scenes area, hidden behind the potting shed, with beds of garlic, leek and onion; lots of potted plants; four huge compost bays, worked by a tractor; two aerobins for kitchen scraps; a worm farm in a bath and sinks of comfrey tea; as well as new workshop plots for natural dyeing and herbal remedies.And finally, there are informal areas beyond the garden fence, as well as the rest of the farm beyond. Mickey and Larry run a small herd of Red Angus cattle. Tomorrow, I will post the last section of our Southern Highlands garden treat!
Last Spring, while impatiently waiting for our garden to wake up, we had a wonderful long weekend away from the 14th to 16th October. It was timed to coincide with the Spring Fair at Glenmore House, Camden, so we based ourselves at Mittagong, so that we could explore some of the other Spring gardens in the Southern Highlands. We had the most wonderful time, starting with Red Cow Farm, Sutton Forest, on Friday afternoon, then Glenmore House and Moidart on Saturday and Chinoiserie and Perennial Hill, both in Mittagong, on the Sunday before driving home. All totally different, yet equally special : an artistic romantic garden; an organic vegetable garden; a grand old formal garden; a specialist peony garden and a new collector’s garden. Throw in some browsing in the beautiful shops of Bowral, as well as an amazing needlecraft shop in Mittagong and some antique foraging, and you have the recipe for a perfect weekend away! I have broken this post into three parts, which I will post on three consecutive days, to reduce its word count. In Part 1, I will be describing Red Cow Farm and Moidart. In Part 2, Glenmore House and in Part 3, the newer collectors’ gardens of Perennial Hill and Chinoiserie.
Red Cow Farm
7480 Illawarra Highway Sutton Forest, 5 km south of Mossvale 2.5 hectares (6 acres)
1.5 hours drive from Canberra and Sydney
Phone: (02) 4868 1842; 0448 677647
Open 8 months of the year from late September to the end of May, 10am – 4 pm. Closed Christmas Day.
$10 Adults; $8 Seniors and $4 children (4 to 14 years old)We first discovered Red Cow Farm last Autumn and resolved to revisit it in Spring to see the 800 old roses in bloom, but unfortunately, it was a little early, due to the cooler temperatures we have been experiencing, so it’s a definite on our holiday agenda next year in early November! Here is a Spring rose and an Autumn rose from each visit. Despite the lack of old rose blooms, it was still well worth visiting the gardens again for all the beautiful Spring flowers. In fact, I would visit in any season, except obviously Winter, when the garden is closed! It is one of my favourite gardens! I love its size and scale; the different garden areas; the unusual and rare plantings; the variety of texture, form and colour in all the plantings; and the wonderful use of colour, as well as light and shade.This beautiful romantic English style cool climate garden was created by Ali Mentesh and Wayne Morrisey, who bought the property back in 1990. They designed a series of 20 garden rooms and spaces around the 1820s stone cottage, which was originally built by ex-convict, George Sewell, as a gentleman’s residence and named Red Cow Farm after the red Hereford cattle in the paddocks next door. Here is a photo of the garden plan, given to us on our first visit:Starting from the cottage garden in front of the house, the camellia walk leads via the Apollo Walk to the Abbess’s Garden, complete with its own chapel and angel statue; topiared cones; and beds full of exuberant plantings of old roses, dahlias, tulips and perennials and wonderful colour combinations. The riot of colour and form contrasts dramatically with the Beech Walk next to it. Two portals are cut into the high hedges, which were being trimmed on our first visit. The top of the walk leads back to a circular pergola, clothed in climbing roses and the house courtyard, while the lower doorway leads down to a beautiful Hazelnut Walk, under-planted with hostas, primroses, hellebores, euphorbias, tulips and other bulbs. and the pond, with its own island and antique sailing boat and the bog garden, lined with yellow and blue iris. I loved the golden light in the woodland and the play of dappled light and shade. Resisting the temptation to explore the island on the lake, we meandered down the long herbaceous border, which ended with an obelisk and a wonderful borrowed landscape view of cattle quietly grazing the hillside beyond. We had to retrace our steps to the next border, as the ground was a bit boggy and the bees in their beehives very active! I love the variety in textures, colour and form in this garden, which was equally lovely last Autumn with all the deciduous foliage starting to colour. Red maples contrast with blue conifers and trees with golden and variegated foliage and stems like this wonderful stand of bamboo. I love the use of grasses in this garden! The woodland contains many rare trees and maples and is under-planted with massive rhododendrons and birches with paths leading to seats and restful shady corners, as well as back to the lake. I loved the bluebells, buttercups, cyclamen, fothergilla, rhododendrons and trilliums.There are numerous statues of cherubs, nude males, mythological gods and gargoyles throughout the garden.The island is accessed via a bridge covered with old roses, Lamarque (see bottom photo) and Albertine, falling into the water. We saw two very monstrous carp feeding in the pond.We then wandered back through the shrub and flower walk to the old gardener’s cottage and chook pen, where crimson rosellas, galahs, mickeys and crested pigeons were also feeding with the hens! It is such a delightful old cottage with so much charm! I love the circular flowerbed in the courtyard, which was filled to the brim with bright colourful zinnias last Autumn. This Spring, two large tubs of tree peonies Paeonia suffruticosa were in full bloom at the end of the pergola. Against the house is a long pond with much prettier smaller goldfish. The flower/shrub borders are separated from the orchard of apples, pears and stone fruits by the Crab Apple Walk.Just above the orchard is the Monastery Garden, a walled garden, measuring 25m by 8m, built in 1996 in the design of a Celtic cross. The formal beds are separated by paths, made of a mix of bluestone, sand and cement, and defined by English box hedging Buxus sempervirens. Plantings include: Maltese Cross Lychnis chalcedonica; Cascade Penstemon Penstemon serrulatus; Delphinium ‘Black Knight’; Geranium x riversleaianum ‘Russell Prichard’; tulips; and old roses: Reine des Violettes, Pax and Felicia. Statues of saints on plinths abound in the monastery beds including : St. Jude, St. Joseph and St. Anthony, all imported from Canada; St. Francis from Mexico and the patron saint of gardens, St Fiacre, a commissioned artwork by an Australian artist. There is also a large stone wishing well with intricately carved sides in the centre of the cross, a huge carved bell and a large Gothic baptismal font just outside the stone arch entrance to this part of the garden. A wisteria walk separates the vegetable garden and Montfort’s Nursery from the Monastery Garden. The kitchen garden is sheltered from the wind by huge old pine trees and is full of fresh vegetables and herbs. The nursery contains many rare self-propagated plants for sale. Ali is very knowledgeable about all the plants, having had over 20 years of experience designing private gardens in Sydney and Canberra, as well as on the South Coast and the Southern Highlands. The final section of the garden is a walled garden next to the house, full of colour and scent and a birdbath in the corner. A small shop in the front room of the house contains gifts and garden souvenirs: home-made jams, scented candles and framed prints of the garden. The garden is also used for weddings and photo shoots.
19 – 21 Eridge Park Rd Burradoo, near Bowral 5 acres
Ph (02) 4861 2600
Open mid-September to late October each year; 10am to 4pm. $7 per adult
One of the grand old gardens of the Southern Highlands, Moidart was built in 1932 by James Burn, a member of the Burns Philp company, after it was split off from the Eridge Park Estate, and was named after a district on the west coast of Scotland. This iconic garden was constructed concurrently with the house, so was relatively well-established by the time the building was completed in 1935. The garden was designed by landscaper gardener Mr Buckingham, with much consultation with the architect of the house, Laidley Dowling, so it all fits seamlessly together as an integrated whole , the basic design remaining unchanged for over almost 90 years, although plant growth has altered the emphasis in some parts of the garden. For example, the conifers at the front of the house have now blocked all the views out of the garden and the huge mature trees are casting much greater shade over the garden, altering plant habitats and the growth of plants underneath. The same family still owns the property and lives in the grand old house.Much of the work was done by Bowral local, the late Clarie Worner, who apparently prepared the ground for planting by using dynamite to disrupt the solid layer of shale on the surface! A family friend and amateur botanist, DWC Shiress, chose many of the exotic tree and shrub species, which include specimens of Giant Sequoia (photos above); Cypress conifers; Monterey Cypress; Chestnut; Red Oak; Copper Beech; London Plane; Golden Ash; Golden Elm; Weeping Elm; Weeping Cherry; Tulip Tree; Crab Apple; Dogwoods; Cornus contraversa variegata; Davidia involucrata; Edgeworthia; Camellias and Echiums. Their relative positions can be seen on this mudmap of the garden design:The main driveway winds through a mature woodland to a turning circle, where the main house finally comes into view, before ending in a garage at the side of the house. However, we entered the garden through a woodland past the hosta walk; hellebores, bluebells and pulmonaria; rhododendrons, azaleas and viburnums; and the Bamboo Garden;emerging at a huge old camellia, very similar to the one at our front door. Below the camellia is an expansive lawn, studded with mature deciduous trees in fresh new leaf : elm, beech and plane trees. To the right is a serene round goldfish pond. We wandered down to the courtyard in front of the house, full of Iceberg standard roses and a silver garden. The central stone circular steps lead down to the first terrace, but the further two terraces must be walked the whole length to access them. It is such a lovely stroll past mature trees and shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and viburnums and herbaceous perennial borders. We looked down over the hellebore and bluebell walk to a paddock and large dam with geese and Highland cattle.To the south of the house is a delightful sunken rose garden, which is viewed from the house over a box hedge. It is formally laid out with box-edged garden beds, gravel paths, a central flowering crab apple and two sandstone semi-circular seats at either end. While it was too early for the roses, the peonies were a real show! Behind the sunken garden is the daffodil walk in amongst beautiful lilacs and dogwoods in full bloom, including an unusual double form of Cornus.There is a lovely pink dogwood at the back of the house.Moidart is famous for its collection of rare plants, bulbs, shrubs and trees and fortunately, it is possible to purchase many of them at a plant stall at the entrance, as well as online from Moidart Rare Plants: http://www.moidart.com.au/. More tomorrow…!!!
The area including Wonboyn Lake, Baycliff and Greenglades is the subject of my final destination post for the year and it is a wonderful spot to explore in Summer! We were blown away by its beauty, variety and interest on our first visit last January and were equally enchanted on our second visit in late November. Like Merrica River to its immediate south (see last month’s post on the king orchids and wildflowers of Merrica River : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/11/22/the-kings-of-merrica-river/), it is situated in the northern part of Nadgee Nature Reserve, as can be seen in this photograph of a map from the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) board. To access this wonderful playground, travel south from Eden along the Princes Highway for 22.5 km, then turn left into Wonboyn Rd and follow it all the way to Myrtle Cove and Wonboyn, a small fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Wonboyn (10 km; 15 minutes). There are also a number of oyster leases, as well as a holiday resort on the opposite side. From Myrtle Cove, follow Nadgee Rd to the entrance of Nadgee Nature Reserve, where the road becomes the unsealed Greenglades Rd. The sign here indicates that Baycliff is 7 km away, while Greenglades is 4 km. This sign is also where the Jewfish Walk takes off. To access Baycliff, turn left off Greenglades Rd into Baycliff Rd (approximately 15 minutes to reach this point. Baycliff is 4 km and Greenglades 1 km from here). Progress becomes much slower now as you pass through extensive forests of eucalypts; banksias Banksia integrifolia and Banksia serrata; casuarinas; Bracelet Honey Myrtle Melaleuca armillaris and cassinias, as well as a fascinating parallel dune ridge-swale system, formed over the last 6000 years. You can walk across these dunes to Wonboyn Beach (central part) from the Bayliff Rd. Not long after the Wonboyn Beach car park, the road bifurcates with a 100 m road to the River car park on the left (with an 80 m walk to the lake – this would be the easiest spot to launch the canoe)…and the main access (600 m walk) to Wonboyn Lake and Baycliff on the right. Before I start to describe this incredible spot, I will start with a brief look at Wonboyn Lake itself.As can be seen from this NPWS board map at Myrtle Cove and the Wonboyn Jetty, Wonboyn Lake is a 10 km long tidal lake formed by the estuary and river mouth of Wonboyn River, as it flows into Disaster Bay. There is shoaling at the oceanic entrance and limited tidal exchange. The lake includes a variety of habitats from seagrass meadows to mangroves, saltmarsh and wetlands, providing homes for a wide diversity of flora and fauna. I just loved the extensive swamp plain of sea rush, sedges and grasses (accessed from the boardwalk on the Jewfish Walk) and the greens and golds of the grasses and reeds. The water on the edge is quite warm and shallow and is home to mudwhelks, bubble shells (photos 1 and 2), conical sand snails Polinices conicus, whose presence is verified by their clear jelly-like egg sacs (photo 3), and giant jellyfish (photo 4 – but take care walking near them, as their nearly invisible tentacles pack a powerful punch, as I learned only too painfully well!) It is also home to the native Sydney Rock Oyster Saccostrea glomerata, which has been commercially cultivated since the early 1900s. The oysters take two to three years to reach market size and they feed by filtering algae and other marine nutrients from the sea water. Each oyster filters at least 20 litres of water a day, keeping the lake water clean. Bay Cliff is a headland just south of the mouth of the Wonboyn River, as it enters Disaster Bay. The latter was a deep inland river valley in Pleistocene times, but at the end of the last ice age 6000 years ago, the rising waters flooded the river valleys, converting them to bays and lagoons and Baycliff became an island. You can imagine what it would have looked like from this picture (minus the sand dunes on the left) on the NPWS board. Over the last 6000 years, it has been reconnected to the mainland by a parallel beach dune barrier infill system and is now being overtaken by it. As sea levels rose, the large rivers in Eastern Victoria had difficulty carrying their loads to the continental shelf and were forced to dump their sediment load on the newly inundated areas. The sand was carried by the prevailing south-easterly swell from Cape Howe as long-shore drift in a north-easterly direction. Green Cape, the northernmost promontory of Disaster Bay, traps the moving sediment sourced from the continental shelf and long-shore drift, and the sediment is deposited as narrow sandy barriers at river mouths like that of the Wonboyn River. The NPWS board has a very good explanatory diagram, photographed here, describing the formation of parallel dune ridge systems. During storms, sand is eroded from the beach by wave action, then in calmer weather, forms a berm (defined as a narrow ledge or shelf/ a border barrier) parallel to the shoreline. Grasses and other debris trap the sand blown up from the beach, forming dunes. New dunes are formed from sand deposited by long-shore drift and the old dunes become beach ridges, separated by swales or depressions, a process which still continues today. In the Wonboyn area, there are at least 60 beach ridges, each 27 m apart and 30 of these ridges can be seen between the car park and the beach on the Wonboyn Beach walk. The oldest beach ridge (furthest from the sea) has been dated at 7800 years and 3 km of the original flooded bay has been filled in, so that Baycliff is no longer an island. It is the most extensive, least disturbed and best developed parallel dune system on the NSW coast and provides a wonderful record of oceanic, climatic and cultural change over the last 6000 years, as well as being an outstanding example of a major barrier infill sequence, illustrating Holocene coastal evolution. The NPWS board depicts this process very well. For more information, refer to a thesis written by Thomas Oliver at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5657&context=theses. Another good source of information about the basic process is : ‘Introduction to Coastal Processes and Geomorphology’ by R. Davidson-Arnott. See: https://sudartomas.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/introductiontocoastalprocessesandgeomorphology.pdf.
The underlying geology of Nadgee Nature Reserve is primarily late Devonian Merimbula Group sediments of sandstones, conglomerates, siltstones and shales, laid down 350 Million years ago. The coastline comprises of broken cliff lines, intertidal rock platforms, sandy and boulder beaches, sand barriers, estuaries, coastal lagoons and tidal and overwash features. It contains a wide diversity of habitats, including over 40 different vegetation associations, 700 plant species (including 6 rare plants and a large number of restricted plant species), 24 of which are at their southernmost geographical limit, 4 different types of rainforest and a large area of coastal heath land. Some of the plant communities include: Tall Open Forest; Moist Gully Forest; Dry Dune Forest (endangered); Estuarine Scrub; Saltmarsh communities (endangered); and Littoral Rainforest (also endangered). Here are a few of the plants in bloom in late November in the tall open forest on the road into Wonboyn.Moist Gully Forest occurs on deep sandy soils in sheltered gullies and is predominantly Monkey Gum Eucalyptus cypellocarpa and Rough-Barked Apple Angophora floribunda, with a mosaic understorey of tall shrubs ferns, grasses and sedges. The tree hollows provide shelter and nesting sites for yellow-bellied gliders, powerful owls and greater broad-nosed bats, not to mention mushrooms (see 2nd photo below)! Dry Dune Forest of White Stringybark Eucalyptus globoidea and Old Man Banksia Banksia serrata grows on the deep freely-draining and damp sandy soils close to the ocean. The banksia provide nectar for honeyeaters during their north-south migration in Autumn, as well as the threatened eastern pygmy possums. The two photos below show the difference in the foliage between Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia (leaves have entire edges) and Old Man Banksia (also called Saw Tooth Banksia for obvious reasons!) Banksia serrata (leaves have serrated edges). Wedding Bush Ricinocarpus tuberculatus is the predominant shrub in the heath understorey. On the edges of the estuary and lagoons, the low-lying flats are covered with Estuarine Scrub, a dense shrub and herb layer, predominated by Bracelet Honey Myrtle Melaleuca armillaris. Ringtail possums build their drays in the paperbarks, while yellow-tailed black cockatoos shred their bark in their search for wood grubs.