Category Archives: New South Wales Gardens

Lambing Flat, the Gold Rush, and a Garden

The pretty country town of Young, about 3 hours drive from Canberra, is known for its beautiful cherries in spring.

Many Canberrans make an annual trip to Young to pick their own cherries, or buy boxes of them at a very reasonable price.

NSW Tourism

However, our visit was not for cherries (this time),  we came to see the Chinese Tribute Gardens at Lambing Flat, on the outskirts of Young.

The name Lambing Flat came from the first European settler, James White, who farmed in this beautiful valley, in 1826. He reserved this well-sheltered valley for lambing ewes.

However, the gold rush changed the peaceful valley…

Mark Twain (apparently) famously said ”Whiskey’s for drinking, and water is for fighting over”

He might as well have added that when gold is found, greed, fighting and prejudice follow

Within  12 months of the discovery of gold in the Lambing Flat region, approx. 20 000 gold seekers, from all over the world, arrived, and amongst them were some 2000 Chinese miners.

Disagreements arose over the use of water, land ownership, and racial tensions…leading to an appalling riot destroying the Chinese camp and injuring many of the Chinese miners.

A large contingent of NSW police were sent to Lambing Flat, and eventually peace was restored.

With this history in mind, we arrived  at the Chinese Tribute Gardens early in the morning.

This garden has been designed and built in recognition of the contribution of the Chinese community to the settlement of Young.

It has been a true community effort, started by the Young Rotary Club, supported by local and regional businesses, grants from the Federal Government and the Cherry Festival and by the Sydney Chinese community as well.

A White Egret, a Sacred Ibis, and two very white ducks!

It is a warm morning with birds moving softly, reflected in the still water..

The gardens are ringed by bushland, and She-Oak (Casuarina) trees in the distance provide a wind break for this beautiful garden.

The rocks were sourced from a quarry near the neighbouring  town of Boorowa, and were worked on by a stonemason from Harden…

The Bronze Galloping Horse is a special feature in the garden. Known as the ‘Matafeiyan’, or “‘galloping horse stepping on a flying swallow”. It is modelled on the original which is preserved at the Gansu Province Museum in China.

In this peaceful setting the Galloping Horse may be galloping on a flying swallow, but is also a resting spot for early morning birds..

The Crepe Myrtles and Oleanders are all in flower… and the palms seemed perfectly placed between the rocks.

In this pool of tranquillity the rocks provide balance and harmony.

Early morning Dusky Moorhen

There are winding paths around the rocks, and benches, inviting us to sit and enjoy the plants, the birds, the water and reflections…a lovely way to spend a morning.

Lambing Flat, a beautiful valley, had experienced the worst of human behaviour during the gold rush.

Now it has been transformed by all the people in the community and beyond, coming together to build this quiet and peaceful place….a joy to visit.

Unfortunately we did not have time to stay long in the town of Young itself….(next time for the cherries)

However, on our way home we couldn’t resist stopping at the town of Wombat.

Also established during the gold rush, Wombat has a population of 120 people (no parking problems) and is surrounded by cherry and stonefruit orchards.

We stopped off to buy some “Fair Dinkum” eggs. (Fair Dinkum….the real thing)… freshly laid farm eggs.

We put the money in the Honesty Box, and hoped that life will remain the same in this part of the world for many years to come.

I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, where ever that may be…we enjoyed this weekend very much.

Many thanks to Paul for his photo contributions.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Canberra in spring: Tulip Top

Can you believe this stunning property, called Tulip Top, is designed, planted and cared for by two people… Pat and Bill Rhoden.

Twenty years ago, when they lived in Canberra, Pat and Bill had won awards for their suburban garden…so when they retired they decided to find a bigger property and to really indulge their passion for gardening.

They now have a wonderful spring garden on 10 acres (four hectares) just north of Canberra at Sutton.

It seems incredible to me that Pat and Bill manage this property on their own, their son helps with some gardening, and their daughter organises the administration when Tulip Top opens in spring.

They are now 70 years old, and still propagating, pruning, weeding, mowing, sowing, and doing all the other maintenance jobs

……so I can just stop complaining about my knees after a day of gardening!

Twenty years ago they began by planting various trees. To form a canopy for the garden they have English and Chinese elms, conifers (excellent wind breakers) and eucalyptus trees are all in the mix..

Weeping willows give an early spring lace green effect..

The one thousand flowering trees took my breath away…

They have crab-apple, peach, cherry, apricot, quince and plum trees.

A particularly eye-catching tree is the Double Flowering Peach tree..

The Australian Garden History Society has showcased the progress in the garden with photos and articles near the entrance to the gardens..

…here is  a short summary of Pat and Bill’s year of gardening..

The garden is open to the public for four weeks in spring (the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October)

In November they lift the bulbs, which are labelled and stored in crates. (500 000 bulbs at last count).

Then two weeks worth of pruning trees..

After a Christmas and holiday break, Pat and Bill begin again in February. They re-shape the beds, add fertilizer, and make sure the PH in the soil is right.

They check bulb catalogues, and trial about 10 to 12 new cultivars each year.

In mid March seedling trays of annuals arrive, including pansies, primulas, and English Daisies, amongst others.

In early autumn the tulips go into cold storage.

Tulip planting begins in May for a six week period….right into our winter, June. As they can’t plant until the soil thaws in the winter mornings, Bill says sometimes they have to work in the dark to make deadlines.

Tulips are planted en masse, with early, mid and late varieties.

Everything is covered in sugar cane mulch…this offers protection against the birds and frost, and saves on watering and keeps the weeds down..

Pat says that World Favourite has always been a good performer for them. In the evening light, the red and yellow tulip looks as there is a light burning inside it.

World Favourite

 

Paul took a photo of this beauty, but unfortunately we don’t know its name…

This lovely apricot coloured tulip is called Actrice

Do you have a favourite tulip?

I just love all red tulips, and they bloom in the most difficult parts of our garden..

Red Apeldoorn

and the white tulips….

One very good reason to plant white tulips in our garden is that cockatoos don’t pick white flowers quite as readily as others (apparently)

…..and if you are looking for some bling, how about this one, aptly named Fabio!

One of the many kind volunteers said that Bill and Pat don’t get much sleep the week or two before opening but they are quoted as saying “just seeing the joy visitors get out of coming to Tulip Tops is the biggest reward for us”

Many thanks to Bill and Pat for a wonderful day..

The gardens are open in the last two weeks of September, and the first two weeks of October. (the beginning of spring in Canberra)

 

 

Hillandale: a garden for the Impressionists

This is a flashback to November 2017, to my absolute favourite garden of the year…. spring time at a country property called Hillandale in Yetholme, near Bathurst, New South Wales.

This farm and garden , set in bucolic fields and distant hills, is a credit to the owners, Sarah and Andrew Ryan.

In 1999, they purchased the property from the Wilmott family who were responsible for planting most of the mature trees, rhododendrons, (as tall as trees)  azaleas, hydrangeas and maples.

A turf-covered stone bridge leads over a little creek, and into the slopes down to rolling hills below.

There is a lush, green almost English feel as we walk through the first part of this diverse garden.

 

The spring-fed water winds down to the lake, and opens out into a wonderful country property.

The garden has many parts to it, but we started with  Sarah’s herbaceous perennial border. It is 120 metres (390 feet) long and designed to walk through and enjoy…”to delight the senses”

This border is on the sunny northern side of the garden. (Unfortunately by the time I took these photos it was midday on a very bright day, so some of the photos are a little hazy..)

Sarah became interested in perennials about twenty years ago, influenced by the naturalistic planting style pioneered by the Dutch and was also inspired by wonderful herbaceous borders in the British Isles.

She has experimented with many different plants over the years, and now has 300 different species. They all help to create movement, structure, texture, which is Sarah’s aim.

These soft golden coloured grasses were waving in the morning sunshine… and I’ve never seen Love-in-the-Mist planted so well between other groups of plants..

The winding path changes perspective every time you walk along it…..

and we walked up and down quite a few times, finding more interesting surprise plantings every time.

With the slightly steamy sunshine look, (and my slightly hazy photos) this perennial border starts to look like an impressionist painting doesn’t it?

Sarah has also planted to attract birds and insects to the garden…

….and yes, she even manages to work around the Cockatoos, and several other birds …..all part of the rich  tapestry of country living. I’m sure she could tell us many stories about all the birds that visit this garden…for a later post perhaps…

Incidentally we saw this Australian King parrot in the car park of a nursery not too far from Hillandale..

You almost need your sunglasses on to see him on this bright sunny day…

This area has rich soil and a good rainfall (most of the time) so would be the envy of most gardeners I know…

The vegetable patch is also flourishing, but I think Sarah and Andrew make everything look easy..

This glasshouse was a present to Sarah from Andrew, he reassembled it piece by piece from a property where it was no longer wanted.

It is full of plants like geraniums and succulents that need to be protected from the cold,……

It is hard to believe on this warm spring day, but  Yetholme is one of the coldest regions in Australia, at about 1150 metres above sea level, and has regular snow in winter.

We spent a long time in this garden and chatting to Sarah. She encourages people to stay as long as they like, have picnic, or just enjoy a coffee and look through photos of the garden through all seasons.

In fact, we spent so long talking that I forgot to take a photo of Sarah, this knowledgeable, and talented plants-woman. Gardeners are such nice people aren’t they?

But we will be back to see this extraordinary garden, hopefully through all the seasons.

We found out about this garden when we were browsing through a book shop in Melbourne. I picked up a beautiful book called Dreamscapes which features gardens from all around the world….. Australia, NZ, USA, UK, Europe and Asia.  All of them are glorious. There was only one in New South Wales (our region) and it is Hillandale.

Paul then went back to the book shop and bought the book as a surprise for our wedding anniversary.

Dreamscapes by photographer Claire Takacs

So now we can go on a trail of glorious gardens forever!

Hillandale is open on the last weekend of each month until March 2018… and I’m sure will be open again next spring.

http://www.hillandalegardenandnursery.com.au

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retford Park, from homestead to country estate..

This grand house and parkland is tucked away on the outskirts of Bowral in the Southern Highlands, New South Wales.

The property dates back to 1821 when Governor Macquarie granted Edward Riley two parcels of land. It was originally called Bloomfield.

This Jane Austen-like driveway takes us back to the 1880s, when Samuel Hordern bought the property.

Fortunately for future generations, his son, Sir Samuel Hordern and his wife, Charlotte, were keen gardeners. They were responsible for the first of the large trees and camellias, and a park full of rare and unusual oaks.

Retford Park was bought by James Fairfax in 1964, and it was his country home until he died early in 2017.

James inherited his fortune from the Fairfax Publishing company founded by his forebears, and is a well known philanthropist and art patron.

When he died, he showed further generosity and foresight by gifting  Retford Park to the National Trust for all to enjoy.

The Southern Highlands has a temperate climate, and for new settlers arriving in Australia, it was a chance to grow colourful shrubs, like camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas…the gardens were exploding with blossoms and colours..

When James Fairfax bought the property he turned it from an agricultural property to a country house for family and friends.

Under his care, landscape designers have blended old with the new. There has been extensive re-planting of the park, with various species, notably, chestnut, gingko, nyssa and many oaks…this is my favourite part of the property.

The Cypress Lawn, includes an older Redwood, and newly planted weeping Japanese maples, and a bamboo grove…

The Redwood tree has increased in height since a huge old Monterey Cypress was cut down after extensive damage by the cockatoos during the last drought….

The remnants of a Monterey Cypress, after being ringbarked by cockatoos during the last drought

as I have mentioned in many posts, cockatoos are great characters but tough to live with in the country and/or on a farm….(everywhere really)

A cockatoo busily stripping some bark from an apple tree nearby

The pool pavilion was designed in 1968 by the late architect, Guilford Bell. It provides panoramic views across the paddocks.

Not very far away from this slick and modern pool is part of the original garden, and here we can see the Rolls Royce of all chicken coups… electric fences to keep out the foxes..

It was customary for large estates to keep exotic birds and animals, and these days, all that remain are some emus. They  have an equally generous garden, also surrounded by electric fences…possibly to keep them in!

Emus, usually living in dry precarious bushland, probably think they have died and gone to heaven here!

Along the Emu walk are trees called Tilia cordifolia “Rubra”. Also known as Lime or Linden trees.

The older aviaries are being taken over by impressive vegetable gardens.

Near the garage was the Peony walk, unfortunately nearly the end of flowering time for these gorgeous flowers, but we managed to find a couple still blooming….Paul took an lovely shot of the pink one..

The Knot garden, closer to the house is planted with  English and Japanese box and Mop-top Robinias, designed by David Wilkinson, architect and landscape gardener.

The black and white tulips were very striking..

The Knot garden takes us full circle to the front of the grand house, and this is called the Grey Garden, and is planted with white agapanthus and clipped slivery grey shrubs.

Looking down through the Grey Garden you can see the lovely parkland beyond..

These ancient trees are drawing the visitor in…..what could be better on a warm spring day..

….than lunch under the blossoming trees near the coach house…. and cottages, in the original pastoral property

There is an overwhelming feeling of shade and peace at Retford Park, which only well cared parks and gardens can give…

 

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tumbarumba’s garden festival

Tumbarumba sounds like a Mexican hat dance…. in fact it is a lovely little town, on the western edges of the Snowy Mountains about three hours drive from Canberra.

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With a population of about 2 000 people,  the cold climate gardens in this little town would do a Chelsea garden show proud, and the hospitality of the people is to match.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area around Tumbarumba has been Wiradjuri country for at least 20 000 years. The name Tumbarumba comes from the Wiradjuri language, and is thought to mean ”sounding ground”, or ”hollow ground”.

The first garden we visited, called Burraleigh, gave us some incidental history of the region.

In the 1850s gold was discovered in this district…

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Ned Kelly, a famous bushranger during the 1800s, was also found wandering in the garden, but in fact, the Tumbarumba region had its own fearsome bushranger called  Mad Dog Morgan.

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Now, in more peaceful times, this garden has been lovingly developed over 30 years, and has magnificent deciduous and evergreen trees overlooking themed gardens.

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More gardens, and Blueberry pancakes had been recommended at the Laurel Hill Berry Farm, just outside of the town, built on the historic Miners Arms Hotel.

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and the Coachman’s hut still remains, with netted blueberries behind it.

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In the tradition of spring in these parts, a young female magpie was very upset by all the people visiting the normally, quiet, berry farm. She was ruthlessly swooping everyone in sight, even though, we were told by the owner, the babies had almost grown….

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it was hard to concentrate on our delicious blueberry pancakes…

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but somehow we struggled through..

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Ann’s garden, amongst the rolling hills, began with this small back yard, and has grown and spread over 30 years. This design is typical of a bygone era of Australian gardens, with the hills hoist (clothes line) in the middle, and a very practical cement path leading to the clothes line and the gate.

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The garden had spread over time. Meandering paths lead to oaks, maples, hazelnuts and apple trees, and flowering shrubs

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Ann manages a thriving vegetable patch and some chooks to provide eggs and manure.I wondered about snakes coming over from the fields beyond, but I didn’t want to sound like a city wimp, so I kept quiet.

Further out of town is a beef farm, called Karbethon, with a stunning garden developed over fifty years. The garden is loving cared for by Colin and Diane Hardy, and was started by Colin’s mother.

IMG_1550 (1024x765)This property is more like a park, with mature trees, including Old English Oaks, Italian Alders, Canadian Maples, Chinese Tallow, Liquidamber and many more. On this hot day, I’m enjoying the shade of this tranquil place.

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We have a small Japanese Maple, and now we are wondering…will it reach this size?

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This is a wonderfully spreading Chinese Tallow tree…we have one of these in our front garden…when we bought it the label said ”small tree suitable for suburban gardens”

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Along the driveway, a splendid white shrub is flowering. It was planted by Colin’s mother and has not flowered for many years, but today is in glorious bloom…..just in time for the garden festival.

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Along the borders of the property are tall long-established grasses, no doubt providing wind breaks for the garden when it was first established. The original gum trees are spread around the property and on the edges of the driveway.

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Behind these tall grasses  is another long beautiful garden, and some of Colin’s unique sculptures..

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IMG_6665 (1024x847)Recently the family has constructed a Manchurian Pear walk which features attractive silhouettes, and on the first is engraved  Great Grandmother of Our Gardens. Walking through the path, there are silhouettes of each grandchild.

What a grand legacy this gardener has left behind.

(unfortunately the sun was too strong for a good photo.)

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This garden was a fitting end to our garden tour….we hope to be back to see the ones we missed next year..

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and on the way back we stopped to take a photo of this quiet, and very typical, country scene. Unfortunately the noise of one person getting out of the car and pointing a camera in their direction, sent the cows charging  off down the hill

….I really had forgotten how quiet it is in the country..

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