Favourite Private Gardens: Historic Gardens: Part 2

Last month, we visited private historic gardens from the late 19th century. This post describes the work of garden designers and keen gardeners in the early 20th century: Joan Law-Smith at Bolobek; Edna Walling at Bickleigh Vale Village and Mawarra at the Grove and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at Cruden Farm.

Bolobek        1911

370 Mt Macedon Rd, Mt Macedon    3.6 ha (9 ac)   Less than 1 hour drive from Melbourne




One of the finest and most visited, documented and photographed private gardens in Australia and another beautiful old garden in Mt Macedon, established over 100 years ago and made famous by a subsequent owner, Joan Law-Smith. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Their site has an excellent map of the garden. See: http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/133719/Bolobek.pdf. The garden is 450 metres above sea level with frequent frosts and snow and 750 mm rain, temperatures ranging from 0 degrees in Winter to 40 degrees in Summer and a grey loam soil on a clay base, tending towards acidity. Unfortunately, the day we visited Bolobek for the Spring plant fair was very grey and rainy, so the photos are all a bit dark, but they still will give you an idea of the garden layout and beauty. For photos in Summer, see: http://aggregata.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/visit-to-bolobek-gardens-in-mt-macedon.html


The land, on which Bolobek was settled, was originally Bolobek Swamp, which provided food for the Wurundjeri aboriginal people, but the swamps were drained in the 19th Century. Bolobek means ‘undulating’ in the local aboriginal dialect. Between 1910-1914, Oswald Syme, the youngest son of David Syme, the founder of the Melbourne Age newspaper, bought more than 900 acres in adjoining parcels of land, which were parts of 2 former pastoral runs, Turitable and Wooling. Wooling, an aboriginal word meaning ‘nestling of many waters’, was originally settled in 1839 by William Robertson and included a 9 acre orchard, a 4 acre kitchen garden and Victoria’s first sawmill, as well as fish ponds, the first breeding grounds of brown trout and English salmon trout on the mainland, the ova being imported from Tasmania in 1862. Oswald and his wife, Mildred, built a three-storey Edwardian mansion in 1911 and lived there for over 60 years. Mildred was a keen gardener and laid out a 5 acre garden, including a 0.5 acre orchard. Many trees (rows of lindens, poplars and oaks) and shrubs have survived from the original garden plan. They built a dam (Syme’s Lake) over the original trout hatchery ponds, supplying reticulated water to a garden tank by gravity for the garden and stock troughs. Oswald was a member of the Royal Agricultural Society and ran a Romney Marsh sheep stud, a Friesian stud and a huge dairy complex on Bolobek, the latter destroyed in the 1952 fires, after which 270 ha on Hamilton Rd were excised. They also had a nine-hole golf course, a croquet lawn, a tennis court and a swimming pool.

In 1969, Bolobek was bought by Robert and Joan Law-Smith. Robert was a director of Qantas and BHP and a grazier and ran 400 Herefords and 1000 first cross ewes. They demolished the old house and many outbuildings, then built a smaller single storey house on the original site. It was designed by Phyllis and John Murphy and made of white bagged brick with a grey slate roof and large low windows looking straight out into the garden.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.22.30 Joan was a talented gardener, artist and writer. She removed many trees, including the prunus and the bedding plants, and simplified the design, creating geometrically-shaped compartments, with 3 main axes paths, radiating from a central square lawn adjacent to the house and allowing a grand vista, framed by Italian Poplars, towards Mt Robertson. She loved old roses for their scent, floral arrangements and painting and created a walled garden for them from old bricks, sourced from an old demolished house. She also loved soft pastel colours and the garden has a very romantic dreamy feel with its emphasis on green and white.Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.29.32In 1990, the Law-Smiths sold Bolobek and it passed through a number of hands, the garden gradually going into decline. A further 70 ha land was subdivided in the late 1990s. Greville and Jill Egerton bought the property in 2002 and started renovating the garden and property. They sold to the current owners, Hugh and Brigid Robertson, in 2006. They spent the next two years observing the garden through the seasons and then started a major rejuvenation program in the garden. Since 2008, restoration works have included :

Replacing the old watering system;

Replacing the cypress and pine avenues, which were dying from old age and the drought, with oaks;

Replacing the crab apple and Lombardy poplar walks;

Repaving and regravelling paths and replacing the pergola;

Planting a new middle storey in the garden, which was lost from the neglect in the late 1990s;

Replanting the orchard and planting native trees around the farm; and

Designing and planting a large vegetable garden and picking garden, next to the original Syme vegetable garden.

Because of the micro-climates in the garden, affording pockets of shade, moisture and protection from the prevailing NW winds, in 2008 during the peak of the drought, the Robertsons were able to open the garden to visitors for the first time in 20 years and they had 6000 visitors. The property is now 550 ha and runs 1000 Border Leicester X Merino ewes and a self-replacing herd of 500 Angus cattle. There is self-contained accommodation at ‘The Cottage’, the original station hand’s house beside the garden. Open Garden Plant Fairs were held in 2008 and 2011, with over 10 000 visitors over the 4 days. Today, the garden is used for weddings, concerts and many fund-raising events, as well as hosting the Mt Macedon Horticultural Society Annual Garden Lovers Fair, which we attended in September 2014. The next fair is on 17 and 18 September 2016. There are many stalls selling rare and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs, bulbs, succulents and Australian natives, as well as sculpture and specialist tools. Entrance to the garden is $10 pp.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.17.16Design

Modern formal garden style in 2.5 ha inner garden, with larger informal areas in the outer garden and park.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.13.40Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.19.51 A main axes leads from the house to a distant view of Mt Robertson and there are 2 shorter axes parallel to the main axes, which are lined with weeping birch.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.25.37Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.22.00

Cross axes contains a pergola and a sculpture of a girl  at the end of the apple walk.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.20.33Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.18.46Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.19.04Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.22.46Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.24.11 The colour scheme is very restrained with an emphasis on a variety of green foliage and white, complementing the white house and courtyard and the grey roof and silvery-grey timber fence. White flowers include: white lilies, white nicotiana and white daisies with white watsonias along the poplar walk and a white wisteria, underplanted with double white violets, over the pergola.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.21.53 A hedge of white Iceberg roses complement the white bark of the silver birches behind, the leggy rose stems hidden behind box hedges.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.15.09Formal design elements include :

Lime, Lombardy poplar and crab apple (Golden Hornet) walks, the latter underplanted with English primroses and aquilegas.

Wisteria pergola and dovecot;Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.21.13Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.21.00Walled rose garden; Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.16.04Herbaceous borders;Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.16.34Woodland plantings including shrubs, bulbs, hellebores, columbines and Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum);Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.22.57Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.08Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.35Sweeping lawns with mature shrubs, deciduous trees and naturalized bulbs;Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.13.05Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.20.08I also loved seeing the Flowering quince shrubs in full bloom- white, pink-and-white and red forms and the exquisite magnolias.Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.29.55Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.30.58Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.31.04Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.31.25Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.12Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.28.28Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.28.35Statuary including a sundial and a marble statue.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.43 Ornamental lake and a pool with a figure;

Rows of silver birch and Bhutan cypress and Laurustinus and Lilac hedges;Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.22.12Stone-lined channels and paths;Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.58Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.12.54White gravel courtyard and curved undulating gravel driveway and an avenue of Southern Mahogany (Eucalyptus botryoides).Blog PHGPT2 30%Reszd2014-09-20 10.28.10I loved the walled garden with its espaliered pear trees and climbing roses ( including Wedding Day, Constance Spry , Souvenir de la Malmaison, Souvenir de St Anne and Felicité et Perpetué) over the brick walls.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.16.21Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.16.10Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.15.00Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.14.35Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.13.46 There are 4 symmetrical beds, around the central sundial, separated by mellow brick paths.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.14.01Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.15.20Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.13.50Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.14.27 Other Old Roses include Madame Hardy, Charles de Mills, Maxima, Celeste, Boule de Neige, Mme Pierre Oger and Reine des Violettes.  The roses are underplanted with blue cranesbill, Alchemilla mollis, dianthus, wild strawberries and lambs’ ears.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.15.37Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.15.43Bickleigh Vale Village  1920s

Bickleigh Vale Rd and Edna Walling Lane, Mooroolbark     3 ha


The foothills of the Dandenongs, west of Melbourne, are the other famous area for beautiful old gardens and were the canvas for prominent garden designer Edna Walling.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1898


Originally, Edna  bought 3 acres and built her cottage, ‘Sonning’, in 1921 out of local stone, timber and recycled materials. Later, she bought 18 adjoining acres, which she subdivided into 1-2 acre lots, creating an English-style village with country laneways, deciduous trees and hedgerows. She named it ‘Bickleigh Vale’ after the village, where she grew up in England. Edna’s goal was to create an environment, in which the houses and gardens related harmoniously with each other, as well as the natural environment, a key tenet of the Arts and Crafts movement. She was also an early advocate of Australian natives. Prospective owners had to agree to have their future cottage and its garden designed by Edna and she supplied all the plants. The properties are all linked by side gates, allowing easy access into each other’s gardens and creating a communal atmosphere.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1825Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1871 The cottages were small and simple with rustic stone on the lower levels, dark shingles on the upper gable ends, simple low-set multi-paned casement windows, dormer windows in high-pitched roofs, stone and brick chimneys and French doors and patios.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1836Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1835Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1894 All the gardens bear Edna’s signature trademarks of : densely planted trees and shrubs; stone walls and steps; stone and timber pergolas; low front fences of timber, stone and wire; paths linking garden rooms; ponds and arbours; mossy lawns; and the use of exotic and native vegetation.

Between the 1920s and 1940s, 16 cottages were built, each one different in size and character, but still relating harmoniously with each other, as well as the natural environment. A subdivision in the 1950s created more than 30 properties. Edna moved to ‘The Barn’, built in 1951 and then Buderim, Queensland in 1967.

Today, the village is managed by the Friends of Bickleigh Vale, a group comprising of all the owners. The trees are now fully mature and their shade has changed the nature of the gardens. Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1843Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1846Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1845Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1853The cottages have been adapted to suit modern needs. They were described by the National Trust as a Classified Landscape in 1978 and were included in the Victorian Heritage Register in 2005. See: http://www.onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/1856/bickleigh-vale.

In 1988, Devon Lane was renamed Edna Walling Lane. We were lucky enough to visit Bickleigh Vale in May 2012, as the owner of Badger’s Wood, Anna Beesley, was a fellow student in my garden design course and she organized a class visit. See: http://www.bickleighvalevillage.com.au/badgers-wood.html .

In Spring later that year, 7 Edna Walling gardens were open to the public : Badger’s Wood 1937; Devon Cottage 1956; Downderry; Mistover 1930; The Sheilan; The Barn 1928; and Wimbourne 1940.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1863Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1859Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1885Design

Edna Walling’s  design principles included:

Garden rooms, in which the bare rooms are visible in Winter;

Green is the most important colour, with texture and foliage playing an important role;Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1844Trees are planted in copses and ground covers are allowed to take over; andBlog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1852Gardens should be mulched and not over-watered. They should be allowed to grow naturally and should be left alone with minimal pruning;Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1856Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1839Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1878Plantings include : old remnant gums (Eucalypts and Corymbias) and indigenous blackwoods; exotic conifers including cypress, pines and cedars; exotic deciduous trees including oaks, elms, poplars and aspens, birches, beeches, hornbeams, ash, Japanese Maples, Liquidambars, Crepe Myrtles, Hawthornes and crab apples. The woodland gardens were underplanted with hellebores and naturalized bulbs (freesias, bluebells) in the grass, as well as lots of her signature plants including azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, roses and  jasmine.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1890

Local stone was used to create dry-stone walls, footpaths, patios and steps.Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1841Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1831Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1821Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1826Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1850Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1822Blog PHGPT1 50%ReszdIMG_1837Mawarra at The Grove  1932

6 Sherbrooke Rd. Sherbrooke   Dandenong Ranges, close to the Alfred Nicholas Gardens and next to Sherbrooke Forest                           1.2 ha (3 ac)


A beautiful temperate mountain garden designed by Edna Walling and considered to be one of the finest examples of her work. She described it as ‘ a symphony in steps and beautiful trees’.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 030Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 028History

Originally, the property was called ‘The Grove’ and the house was built in 1932 by Phyllis Mc Millan for her mother Flora May Marshall and her unmarried sisters. It was named after their uncle’s home at 31 The Grove, Boltons, Kensington, where the sisters often stayed when visiting their wealthy bachelor uncles in London.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 026 Edna Walling was employed to design and develop the garden from 1932-1935, but abandoned the project after an argument with Phyllis over a minor sum of money (20 shillings), compared to the overall cost of the stonework (7500 pounds, equivalent to $750 000 today!). The garden path named ’20 Shillings’ was created to show where Edna stopped working and others began. Edna had employed Eric Hammond to do much of the stonework, so after Edna left, it fell to Eric to complete the task.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 063Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 067In 1936, he also built ‘Wendy’s Cottage, based on the Marshall sisters’ uncles home ‘Nalderswood’ in Surrey, England, with the help of his friend H Roy Langley. The life-sized doll’s house was enjoyed by all the sisters’ nephews and nieces.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 044Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 037In  1960, Mr and Mrs Frank Walker and Mrs Carol Sallah became the second owners and renamed the property ‘Mawarra’, an aboriginal word meaning ‘a peaceful place’, the original name taken by the sisters to their new abode in Mornington. Later, the name was returned to the property by Norman Marshall, the grandson of Flora May, so the house was called ‘Mawarra Manor’. Mr Jess Exiner and Mr Peter Harris bought the property in 2002 and restored the house over 2 years and the garden over 5 years. It is now owned by John Champion , who has continued to restore the garden over the last 8-10 years. Erigeron is a major problem, its roots damaging the rock walls and stonework. It is possible to stay in both ‘Mawarra Manor’ and ‘Wendy’s Cottage’. There is even a heated indoor pool, sauna and gym in the main house.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 031Design

Italianate Terrace style due to the steep slope of the site;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 075Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 071

Large scale with many long walkways and avenues, secret paths and many surprises;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 076 Driveway is long, dark and narrow and opens out into bright light around the house;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 023Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 024Grand stone staircase with broad shallow steps down to an octagonal reflecting pond;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 027Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 065Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 068Mossy low stone walls, flagged fern-lined paths and terraces;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 069Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 032Croquet lawn surrounded by birch;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 055Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 054Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 051Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 053Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 050Lots of mature exotic trees: weeping cherries, oaks, elms, birch, maples and European beech trees,  underplanted with bluebells;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 064Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 060Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 056Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 057Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 052Exotic shrubs : azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons;Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 025Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 062Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 072Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 078Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 066Wendy House with its own garden;   andBlog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 045Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 040Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 042Miniature Tudor village.Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 043Blog PHGPT1 25%Reszdgrampians 1 047Cruden Farm  1928

60 Cranbourne Rd Langwarrin, VIC, 3210          8ha (20 ac) garden, 54 ha farm ;                50 km from CBD Melbourne (1 hour drive)


Very famous old garden, developed over 80 years by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. It 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.   (26 minutes into the video).

Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 132History

Originally a 90 ac orchard and farm, Cruden Farm was bought by Sir Keith Murdoch in 1928 as a wedding present for his bride, Elisabeth Greene (1909-2012). The small cottage was significantly extended by architect, Harold Desbrowe-Annear.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 113Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 075 The original garden was also small and simple and the only survivor from those early days was a camphor laurel on the northern corner of the house. Over the years, a further 45 ac adjoining property was added to the farm. Percy Meldrum designed the stables and dairy complex, which were built out of stone from Moorooduc Quarry. The ironwork was rescued from the  demolished Caulfield stables and had originally been imported from England.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 111Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 094In 1930, Edna Walling was employed to make 2 walled gardens for fruit trees and roses, but they are now used for herbaceous borders and a swimming pool respectively.  Elisabeth was responsible for the design of the majority of the garden and did much of the planting, along with her Head Gardener, Michael Morrison, who has worked there since 1971.

In 1944, a huge fire through the NE corner of the property burnt a large number of trees and shrubs, including some of the iconic avenue of Lemon-Scented Gums (Eucalyptus citriodora), planted by Elisabeth down the driveway. The missing trees were replaced and linked to existing Melaleuca stypheloides with other native plants. The plantings and layout were simplified. In 1987, a lake was added in the undulating paddock east of the house. A deep dam was created to supplement the water supply in 1997 and both bodies of water attract lots of birds and are surrounded by daffodils in Spring.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 116 A variety of oaks surround the lake and were planted from acorns collected by Elisabeth’s grand-daughters.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 126Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 127

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch died in 2012 at 103 years old. The 54 ha estate was transferred within Cruden Custodian Limited in 2014. It is used for a large number of community and charity events, including jazz concerts, family fun days and open garden days twice a month from 10am-2pm. The next open days are on 23 – 24 June and 28 – 29 July 2016. See:  Groups and individuals can also visit the garden for $20 pp.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 118Design

Temperatures vary between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius, 762 mm rain and sandy loam soil;

Lemon-Scented Gum avenue, planted in 1930s by Elisabeth;

Lawn dotted with mature trees including oaks. National Trust has classified a giant weeping oak; andBlog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 082Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 095Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 083Herbaceous borders and shrub walks including magnolias and azaleas, wisteria and blossom trees.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 076Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 078Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 080Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 079Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 131I loved all the mature old climbers, wreathing the buildings;Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 115Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 119The vegetable garden;Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 090The picking garden: for roses and perennials for the house: reds, pinks, mauves, yellows and creams, including the yellow and crimson Dame Elisabeth Murdoch rose (photo 2);Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 088Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 122Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 086Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 091Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 120Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 085

The walled gardens

: the walled garden, originally designed for fruit trees, was too hot for them and now contains twin English-style herbaceous borders of pink, mauve and yellow perennials and climbers lasting 4-5 months, as well as a statue ‘Dancing Brolga’ by Lesley Bowles. One espaliered apple remains from the original garden.

: the lower walled garden, which was originally designed for roses, is now a swimming pool;

Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 099Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 104Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 098Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 105Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 110Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 097and the sculptures

: Daedalus : Edwin Fabian : just inside the entrance

: Pisces : Douglas Stephen : 2 dolphins embracing: corner to east of walled garden

: Shiva 4 : Lenton Parr : on edge of native garden near the tennis court

Ibis : Phil Price, NZ : on peninsula jutting into the lake : gift from her children to Elisabeth on her 100th birthday.Blog PHGPT2 50%Reszddec 2009 117

Next month, I will be featuring some beautiful private country gardens in Victoria.


Favourite Private Gardens: Historic Gardens: Part 1

There are some beautiful old historic gardens in Victoria, some of which we have been lucky enough to visit through the old Open Gardens scheme (Dalvui, Ard Rudah, Glenrannoch and Mawarra at the Grove),  individual open days in Spring and Autumn (Cruden Farm), plant fairs (Bolobek) and finally, my garden design course at Burnley (Bickleigh Vale Village) . These are only a small sample of the diverse array of private gardens in Australia.

All the gardens in this post are wonderful examples of past times from Australia’s early squattocracy (Dalvui) to Summer hill retreats (Ard Rudah, Glenrannoch and Mawarra) and gardens developed by influential garden designers (Bickleigh Vale, Mawarra, Bolobek and Cruden Farm).  With the exception perhaps of Bickleigh Vale, which was more a communal affair, all garden owners were incredibly wealthy, which enabled them to develop their gardens on a grand scale with lots of stonework and paths, ponds, sweeping lawns and dense plantings of exotic trees and shrubs and herbaceous borders of rare and unusual plants and bulbs. They could afford to employ gardeners to maintain their vast gardens and travelled extensively, garnering lots of new ideas and exotic plants in their travels. Their gardens were showpieces, in which they could indulge their passion for collecting, as well as entertain, and often included tennis courts and pools. All gardens have reached full maturity, while some have required extensive renovation from a declining state with new replantings, judicious tree surgery  and/or removal of dying trees and reconfiguration of boundaries and /or design. All these gardens are still incredibly expensive to maintain and are owned by wealthy private individuals, who have a passion for old gardens. Because this post is so long, I have divided it into two sections according to the age of the gardens :

Part 1 : Ard Rudah 1870, Glenrannoch 1873 and Dalvui 1898

Part 2 : Bolobek 1911, Bickleigh Vale Village 1920s, Mawarra 1932 and Cruden Farm 1928

Part 1 : Favourite Private Gardens: Historic Gardens: 1870-1900

Ard Rudah 1870

49-51  Devonshire Lane, Mt Macedon     2.4 ha (6ac)     45 minutes west of Melbourne

Classic 19th century hill station and 1 of 11 Mt Macedon gardens recognized by the National Trust for its historical significance. The National Trust considers the Macedon Ranges to be one of the most important collections of 19th Century gardens in Australia.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 178History

Originally part of an apple orchard, Ard Rudah was owned by prominent industrialist, William MacGregor, in the early 1870s. He named the property ‘Ard Rudah’, using the Gaelic words for ‘High Promontory’. The garden was developed by Professor Herbert Strong and  Ferdinand Von Mueller, who lived nearby and was the 1st Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens (1857). George Patterson was the first permanent gardener. They also built an early irrigation system from Ferny Creek, which runs through the property.

In 1900, a lawn tennis court was built and was played on by prime ministers and distinguished guests- such a lovely location to play tennis!Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 093Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 088Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 192Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 195 I loved all the established plantings surrounding the court. There were 3 permanent gardeners and the historic glasshouse produced 2000 seedlings, which were planted out each year. The front lawn was dug out by hand by 7-8 gardeners.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 090Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 172The two-storey house was designed and built in 1934 by renowned Melbourne architect of the day Christopher Cowper (1868-1954) for his own use and to accommodate his three daughters in luxury style. It had 7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a separate studio and a six-car garage.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 176 Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 145He also designed a sunken walled Italianate garden with a reflection pond after a trip to Italy. The house was then bought by Walter Meyer, once a personal valet to Winston Churchill, who ran it as a guesthouse until the late 1990s.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 179Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 181Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 185Ard Rudah is on the Historic Buildings Register. It featured in Fred Schepisi’s film ‘The Devil’s Playground’ and was recently refurbished by draughtsman, Stephen Akehurst. When we visited in October 2009, it was owned by Tony Dortimer, who had hired help with the garden once a week.  It was sold in September 2015.


Entrance from Devonshire Lane is via a grand driveway lined with cherries, rhododendrons and azaleas, underplanted with masses of bluebells.Blog PHGPT125%Reszdgrampians 4 080Blog PHGPT125%Reszdgrampians 4 081Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 196Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 149Blog PHGPT125%Reszdgrampians 4 083Blog PHGPT125%Reszdgrampians 4 084Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 106Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 180 A camellia walk leads to the house. At the end of the driveway, a path leads to the sunken garden and a formal pool, punctuated by cypress and surrounded by a wall edged in box. From there, vistas stretch up to the house.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 186

In front of the house are large beds, edged in box, holding massed peonies, tulips and other bulbs and forget-me-nots, and a huge circular lawn.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 170Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 169Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 099 The lawn is studded with a huge mature trees including a copper beech, 100 feet high, lindens and European ash and a rare laburnocytisus. In Spring, masses of naturalized daffodils fill the lawn.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 103Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 089Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 091Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 164Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 158Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 156Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 157Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 182Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 087Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 188 A series of terraces down the hill hold banks of scented azaleas and dense plantings of many unusual shrubs and perennials, as well as stone steps, providing vistas of the different levels.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 159Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 183Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 132Behind the house are huge rhododendrons, massive oaks and a fernery walk with hostas, whose new leaves emerge in early November.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 133Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 160Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 134Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 144A maple walk leads to the bottom of the garden, where there is a fern-lined creek, crossed by two moss-covered stone bridges and  a tree-fern gully.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 184Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 153Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 112Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 108Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 111Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 107Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 113There is also a woodland of giant oaks and sycamore trees, underplanted with bluebells, which flower in Spring, and a sheltered lily pond.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 110Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 124Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 123Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 119Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 122Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 118 It is a lovely garden to visit in any season. Hellebores peep through the snow in Winter; bluebells, daffodils and flowers bloom in Spring and the deciduous trees put on a beautiful display in Autumn.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 142Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 173Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdgrampians 4 129Glenrannoch   1873

84 Devonshire Lane Mt Macedon                                              2.8 ha (7 ac)

Another very old beautiful hill station garden in Mt Macedon and one of my favourite gardens.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 169History

The 3rd oldest property in Mt Macedon, Glenrannoch was settled in the 1880s by Mr George Gordon, an engineer from Aberdeen, Scotland. He named the property using two Scots Gaelic words: ‘Glen’ meaning ‘between ridges’ referring to its position and ‘rannoch’ meaning ‘bracken’ or ‘fern’. The house was built in 1873. Glenrannoch was George’s country property and he developed the steeply sloping block in the style of the Indian hill gardens around Poona.

The Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 destroyed many of the old yew trees, which have since regenerated. Stephen Ryan was the Head Gardener for 2 years after the fires. In 2005, extensive wind damage demolished 7 large blackwoods. John and Penelope McBain have owned Glenrannoch since 1996 and have been slowly restoring the garden under the direction of Trish Zdrzalka of Raintree Cottage. Dead and dying trees have been removed and replaced or pruned by tree surgeons and blackberry removed to reveal the bones of the garden, the stonework and steps and ancient banks of miniature and fragrant rhododendrons, Japanese maples, dogwoods and Spring and Autumn bulbs.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 263Design

Glenrannoch is a very steep garden in 4 levels joined by 4 paths and over 500 steps. It has formal and informal elements- formal, closer to the house with mass plantings of perennials and shrubs and well-clipped box hedges, and informal, further away from the house down to the creek, fern gully and bushland. Entrance is via the lower gate along a ferny walk or up 177 stone stairs to the residence or via the main gates and driveway higher up Devonshire Lane.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 154 Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 171The turning circle in the lane has 5 Chinese birches and 2 large weeping Nootka cypress tower above the gates on either side.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 245Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 247 The driveway is lined with a variety of conifers- old Atlantic cedars, Douglas fir and cypress and new plantings of larch enhance the Scottish theme. The upper side of the driveway is covered in daffodils in Spring and native daisies in Summer and hydrangea blooms in late Summer and Autumn. The lower side of the drive is lined with yellow, cream and lemon rhododendrons and stewartia.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 258Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 255A turning circle in front of the house has 4 round-leafed berry hollies (Ilex menzeii ‘Crenate’). Around the house is a large holly ‘Golden King’. As well as a number of very large old trees, of which the first two are included on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees : Monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, from South America; Western hemlock Tsuga heterophylla; deodar cedars; a silver poplar and huge rhododendron trees. A large hoheria behind the house is also included on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 266Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 271Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 172Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 173Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 175 A pair of Acer palmatum, one green, one bronze grace either side of the front steps leading down from the house.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 177Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 180 The front wall of the house is covered with a red Chilean bellflower.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 181

Two paths, a high road and a low road, which lead from the driveway  to the left and up to the stables, are lined with primroses on the right and dark hellebores on the right and are shaded by a large beech tree.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 262 Several paths off the stable path lead to a developing collection of different types of beech trees. A stand of blackwood, Acacia melanoxylon, and manna gums lies behind the stables.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 259The Woodman’s Path leads from the stables up to the tennis court at the top of the garden.Below the path is a huge hemlock and 2 liriodendrons with an under-planting of lily-of-the-valley bulbs, while the upper slope is covered in rhododendrons.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 218

Halfway up, steep stairs lead to a large water tank for carp. It also serves as a backup supply for fire-fighting.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 229Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 230 To the right of the tank are new plantings of birch, larch and Scots pine. Steps lead to a lookout, from which you can see the You Yangs on a clear day. It is backed by towering conifers- pines, cedars and Douglas firs.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 226Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 217Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 228

The Woodsman’s Path leads to a large weeping beech and steps up to the tennis court area, surrounded by a large blackwood, a huge ponderosa pine, flowering cherries and rhododendron trees, as well as a new herbaceous border.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 184Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 216Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 233 A concrete winding staircase leads to a maple walk.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 220Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 182Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 231Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 223Below the cottage on the eastern side of the house are two herbaceous borders separated by a path, which leads to a large sweet chestnut, one of five in the garden and under-planted with masses of hellebores.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 187Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 200Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 186 The upper border contains a Crane’s Foot maple and a Japanese snowball tree, young hazelnuts and a variety of cotoneasters, while the lower border contains a large green cherry and golden elm, under-planted with hellebores and bluebells.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 199Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 235Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 203Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 202Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 208Below the lawn at the rear of the house, the Spring Walk leads to the fast- flowing Turritable Creek in a deep gully with several waterfalls.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 212

A Dutch medlar, magnolia and cherry trees and a Prunus padus, under-planted with snowdrops, lie below the path, while the upper side has a viburnum, a shad bush, an aspen and a Hookerii maple. There are also magnolias, lilacs, witch hazel and lily-of-the-valley. The path leads past eucryphias and a Nothofagus collection , including Myrtle Beech (N. cunninghamii) and New Zealand Black Beech (N. solanderi) to the creek and a temperate rainforest of forest redwoods. Oak, beech and scented rhododendrons ‘Princess Alice’ and ‘Balantray’. There are 3 smaller paths off the Spring Path, which lead to the lower garden.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 215Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 213Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 205Below the house is a croquet lawn on the southern side. Below the croquet lawn is a newly developed terrace of mollis azaleas and an oak hill, under-planted with daffodils. Two paths lead below and to the west from the azalea terrace to rhododendrons and the bottom gate.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 178Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 194Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 267Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 268From the lower gate, there are 2 routes:

The mossy Creek Path, screened by tall tree ferns and large blackwoods, which lead to the start of Turritable Creek, a small waterfall and the lower part of the Spring Path. New Nothofagus and Wollemi pines  have been planted on the slope above the path.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 164Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 236Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 241Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 238

and     177 Steps up to the house, lined with maples, magnolias, a dove tree, dogwood, Norwegian fir and enkianthus on the left on the way up and rhodendrons, mature larches, an Irish strawberry Tree, a chestnut, an oak and a parrotia.Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 166Blog PHGPT1 50%Reszdapril 167

While the Australian Open Garden Scheme has closed, the baton has been taken up by the newly formed Open Gardens Victoria and it is still possible to visit these gardens. They are running a Mt Macedon coach tour of 3 hill station gardens on 1st September 2016 and I recognized photos from both Ard Rudah and Glenrannoch. For details, see : http://www.opengardensvictoria.org.au/companies/34/62/.

Dalvui     1898

431 McKinnons Bridge Rd, Noorat   Close to Terang, SW Victoria    2.45 ha (6 ac)

One of Australia’s most significant gardens and an excellent example of Guilfoyle’s private garden designs. William Guilfoyle was the second Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 1873.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1857History

1839 Niel Black, the 35 year old son of a Scottish Argylle farmer, arrived in Victoria, looking for land and he bought 50,000 acres of land at Glenormiston in partnership with 2 other men. In 1847, he built his first home, which is now Glenormiston Agricultural College. The partnership dissolved in 1868 and the land was divided into 3 lots- he lost Glenormiston and drew the southern portion on the southern foothills of Mt Noorat, an extinct volcano with rich red volcanic soil, where he built a new mansion just to the north of Dalvui.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2044 At 53 years old, he returned to Scotland, where he married, had 3 sons and died in 1880. The property eventually passed to his youngest son, Niel Walter Black, who obtained Dalvui, formerly part of the 6000 acre Mt Noorat estate.

Niel Walter Black commissioned William Guilfoyle to design a garden around his future homestead and the garden was laid out in 1898. By the time the house was built, the garden was well-established and much of the original design is still intact today. A two-storey brick Tudoresque Queen Anne style homestead was designed by Melbourne architects, Ussher and Kemp, and built between 1904-1908. The Federation house has a polygonal candle-snuffer roof, a Tudor bay window of banked gothic lights, which looks out to the garden, a grand sweeping staircase, Jacobean plaster ceilings and many Art Nouveau features.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1899 In 1909, Niel Walter Black set off for Scotland in the Waratah to find a bride, but unfortunately, the ship disappeared between Cape Town and Durban, the wreck only discovered off Durban in 1999!

In 1911, Dalvui was sold with 560 acres of land  to Claude B Palmer and he lived there until his death in 1941. His wife and then son, Neville B Palmer, inherited the property, then Neville sold Dalvui in 1974. It was sold again in 1985 to Ray Williams, who began refurbishment of the house and garden. Since 1998, it has been owned by Peter and Pam Habersberger. Originally a Romney sheep stud and dairy , the property now runs 150 Murray Grey and Angus cows, though there are still some stud sheep from the original bloodlines.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1906


Originally 5 acres with another 2.5 acres added during Ray William’s tenure, the garden still conforms to Guilfoyle’s 1898 design with sweeping lawns, rockeries, ponds, mature trees (now over 100 years old) and curved herbaceous borders of shrubs, perennials and bulbs. Essentially an inward-looking garden, it provides glimpses of the surrounding countryside, from which it is separated by a rock ha-ha wall. We were lucky enough to visit Dalvui on an open day held in October 2013 and knowing this was such a famous garden, we were first cab off the rank and able to enjoy the gardens on our own at the start.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2101Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1824Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1826Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1856Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1878The driveway , bordered by poplars initially, then silver birches in the garden, curves across the paddocks to the garden, passing the original cypress-lined driveway on the east side.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1839Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1831Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1834 The birches are underplanted with shrubs and perennials with an emphasis on shades of green and grey foliage, blue flowers and soft colours, providing a very restful atmosphere.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1866Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1868Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1869Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1829Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1830Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1828Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1845Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1847Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1854Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1851To the north-west of the house, the old tennis court has been converted to a series of garden rooms, created by box hedging with persimmon trees in the middle.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1879Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1871Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1880Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1881Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1872Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1874 Beautiful sweeping lawns surround the house.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1916Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1898Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2040Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1920 Paths lead to a massive rockery garden (created by Guilfoyle to disguise a natural volcanic rock outcrop), a chain of ponds and a spectacular lake .Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1976Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1911Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1917Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1914Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1924Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1925Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1930There are some beautiful old trees, one even supported by props (see 3rd photo below!) and interesting features like espaliered trees and topiary.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2045Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1850Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1954Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1985Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1886Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2011Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1885I loved the herbaceous borders and garden beds.Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1964Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1965Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1953Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1942Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1982Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1895Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1943Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1945 However, my heart was captured by the hedged kitchen garden just beside the house. This delightful small section of the garden was reason alone to visit Dalvui!Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1997Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2072Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_1999Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2000Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2018Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2016Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2090Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2088Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2093