Piet Oudolf, the famous Dutch garden designer says you should have a little of what you like in your garden, and I think this is a very good, simple philosophy for life generally, and especially on an anniversary weekend. We often go to the Snowy Mountains in January, for our anniversary. However, this year, most of the accommodation was booked out, so we decided to visit the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
The Southern Highlands is a two hour drive from Canberra, and has a milder and wetter climate. The rolling hills and farms look lush and prosperous, the fields are green and the dams always full of water. There many small towns and historic villages, many open gardens and vineyards, good food and wine, and bookshops. Perfect for us.
Our first stop was to Red Cow Farm open garden. It is a cool climate garden in the rural village of Sutton Forest.
Close by the roadside into Sutton Forest is the Cottage, surrounded by a white picket fence, and brimming with flowers and shrubs, colours and smells, bees and butterflies, and not far away, a black bird singing.
The farm has been designed into about twenty garden rooms, and has been a labour of love for the gardeners, since 1990.
We were lucky enough to see some of the garden before it rained, and these photos are, mostly, of the cottage and walled garden.
The cottage garden is surrounded by mature rare trees and maples, and throughout the garden there is an extensive collection of 800 roses.
The gardens are flourishing in these rainy conditions, and the garden beds were full of dahlias, foxgloves, hydrangeas, liliums, clematis and eryngium.
The monastery garden features art work, and statues, including the patron saint of gardens, Saint Francis of Assisi.
We had to cut short our walk around this wonderfully diverse garden as the rain started.
We had a booked a lovely AirBnB, and the thoughtful owner had shelves of interesting books and a coffee table with glossy gardening and country magazines….so a quiet afternoon of reading and watching cricket was in order.
Our weekend ended with an delicious evening meal at Harry’s on the Green. This photo was taken before the pandemic, we had the table tucked away in the corner, with no tables around us. It was a very pleasant evening in every way.
When we were first married, we had a small but thriving garden, and, on weekends we often spent money on books when we were really trying to save for a house….after all these years, we have a bigger garden and a pleasant home, and far too many books!
Best wishes for the New Year, and I hope you find the time to havea little of what you liketoday!
As some readers may already know, I love the gardening book, Australian Dreamscapes, and when ever possible we try to visit a Dreamscape garden on our travels.
I hope you have time to look, and enjoy, this stunning and unique garden called Eagle’s Bluff near Tenterfield in New South Wales, which is featured in Australian Dreamscapes.
Carolyn Robinson, a garden designer and plantswoman, had travelled to many parts of the world with her husband Peter, before they settled in the picturesque town of Tenterfield in New South Wales. Carolyn became well known for her garden design and for creating a lovely, more traditional garden called Glenrock near Tenterfield.
However, for the next chapter of their lives, Carolyn and her husband Peter fell in love with a a more rural property, Eagle’s Bluff, overlooking the Bluff Wilderness area near Tenterfield.
In a remarkably short space of time, they built a house, surrounded on three sides by a river with a backdrop of hills in this rugged landscape. Equally remarkable, Carolyn has planted an expansive garden, full of native and exotic plants, trees and gently swaying grasses.
Carolyn says in Australian Dreamscapes, ”At Eagle’s Bluff the landscape was far more imposing, I could open my mind to the landscape and flow with it. It is a wonderful feeling of being free and not hindered by traditional gardening styles.”
The house has magnificent views from the large windows, looking out onto their pond which reflects the sky, the clouds and the mountains.
The view encourages the eye to look further into the garden and across to the river and the mountains.
Amongst her many talents, Carolyn has been collecting stones and rocks for twenty or so years, and uses them to make stone walls to provide structure in the garden. When she and her husband Peter bought the property, she was delighted to find that there was a jumble of rocks, many of which were flat sided, and able to be used in her new garden.
Carolyn says the stone walls act as a ha-ha foreshortening the distance to the river. Sweeping gardens by the pond are filled with low-growing shrubs and perennials…..absolutely breath-taking on this glorious autumn day.
The paths and the soft green lawns lead us on through a wonderful series of gardens. Carolyn is renowned for her appealing plant palettes, using a variety of shapes, colours and textures.
The gardens spread out like an amphitheatre for the surrounding hills. There are Salvias, Westringa, Lavenders, Grevilleas and many more well chosen plants for the climate.
Another of Carolyn’s quotes from the book ”Foliage colour is more important than the flower colour, and the use of purple foliage is a signature of my design because it works well with glaucous shades in the native vegetation and acts as a foil for the harsh Australian light.”
Carolyn and has planted to encourage the bees, butterflies and birds, and all were in abundance the day we were there.
Tenterfield has cold frosty winters, (occasionally light snow), and moderate hot wet summers. However, as with many parts of Australia, there can be floods and droughts and fires….all of which have occurred in the last few years.
The Robinsons’ main water supply comes from the river, but mindful of the vagaries of the Australian climate, they also have a small dam and two large tanks in case of drought. There is a sprinkler system through the garden, a feat in itself!
Carolyn also plants with drought hardiness in mind and says it is crucial to put plants with similar water needs together.
Deciduous trees, claret ash, golden ash, pistachio, pear and crabapples and prunus are all grouped together, and give shade, but on 40 degree summer days they can be given a drink if needed.
Most of the garden beds are covered with pebbles or crushed rock, and even small amounts of rain can soak through the gravel and stones.
Carolyn loves a mix of plants, massing ground covers, shrubs and formal hedges contrast against textured foliage, spreading natives and flowing ornamental grasses..
To soften the look of the hill on the south side, which was sadly denuded of trees some years ago, Carolyn has added eucalypts and chosen companion plants that would be able to handle competition as they matured.
One distinct lesson Carolyn has learnt from her previous garden, is to plant everything together, when the Eucalyptus are tiny. That way, all the plants around have a chance to develop their root zones and get their defences going before the Eucalyptus dominate. She says ”I always see it as roots waging war under the ground!”
Carolyn expressed her wish for this garden: ‘‘I wanted to create a garden in harmony with the wider landscape, and , in a small way, enhance the spirit of the place”
Carolyn and her husband Peter kindly offered us coffee and cake when we had finished taking photos. As we sat chatting, looking out across the pond, the gardens and the blue hills beyond, I felt that Carolyn had indeed enhanced the spirit of this captivating landscape.
Eagle’s Bluff is a private garden and not available for general viewing, however, the first garden Carolyn created near Tenterfield, called Glenrock is often open during the year.
There are two Dreamscape books, one called Australian Dreamscapes, and another simply called Dreamscapes, featuring gardens all over the world.
Fisherman’s Bay Gardens As much as we would like to make gardener Jill Simpson an honorary Australian, her garden is set in beautiful Akaroa in New Zealand, and therefore Jill is featured in the first book called Dreamscapes.
All three gardens are featured on Instagram.
Thank you for reading my blog post today, and may you enjoy your garden or nearby greenery, near or far, summer or winter.
This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)
That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.
Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.
The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!
The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!
The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.
The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.
The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..
Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!
Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!
The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..
I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.
It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!
Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.
Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…
Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.
We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.
Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….
Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.
While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…
It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;
‘my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”
It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.
Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?
Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.
It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.
The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.
One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.
Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.
Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.
The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!
Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.
As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.
The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.
We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.
Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!
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 reallyindulge 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 Favouritehas 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.
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..
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)
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.
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.
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….
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)
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…
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.
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…
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.
Now, in more peaceful times, this garden has been lovingly developed over 30 years, and has magnificent deciduous and evergreen trees overlooking themed gardens.
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.
and the Coachman’s hut still remains, with netted blueberries behind it.
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….
it was hard to concentrate on our delicious blueberry pancakes…
but somehow we struggled through..
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.
The garden had spread over time. Meandering paths lead to oaks, maples, hazelnuts and apple trees, and flowering shrubs
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.
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.
We have a small Japanese Maple, and now we are wondering…will it reach this size?
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”
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.
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.
Behind these tall grasses is another long beautiful garden, and some of Colin’s unique sculptures..
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.)
This garden was a fitting end to our garden tour….we hope to be back to see the ones we missed next year..
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..