Eagle’s Bluff: a garden in a unique Australian landscape

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.

A young kangaroo stops in its tracks as we drive up to the house.

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.

Pennisetum advena Rubrum in the foreground.

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.

Salvia leucantha Red Harry

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.”

self sown Gaura & Salvia leucantha (Red Harry)
Buddleia ”Lockinch”

Carolyn and has planted to encourage the bees, butterflies and birds, and all were in abundance the day we were there.

Buddleia ‘Lockinch’
Burgundy Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana and Kniphofia
Autumn flowering Kniphofia and a tiny New Holland Honeyeater

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.

Pennisetum advena Rubrum, Gaura, lavenders, David Austin roses surrounded by paddocks and hills

Carolyn loves a mix of plants, massing ground covers, shrubs and formal hedges contrast against textured foliage, spreading natives and flowing ornamental grasses..

A splash of colour from the Gladiolus
I love the soft green ground cover, Santolina.

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!”

Santolina for ground cover and Yucca rostrata ”Sapphire skies” in the distance.
a better look at the Yucca rostrata ”Sapphire skies” in the above photo

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.

Hillandale: a garden for the Impressionists about Sarah Ryan’s garden at Yetholme in New South Wales, Australia. (Dreamscapes Australia)

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.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

20 Replies to “Eagle’s Bluff: a garden in a unique Australian landscape”

  1. That was a lovely tranquil read for my after lunch rest. How wonderful to have all that open space and room to breathe. I can imagine the birds think they are in paradise there.

  2. Gerrie, I love the opening shot, in particular, of the grass foreground to the house. The house and garden integrate with this aspect of the “borrowed landscape”. A lesson here for us all.

  3. This garden and surrounding area is absolutely sublime. What an amazing job Carolyn and Peter have done. It must be wonderful to wake up each morning to such breathtaking views and then set to work tending to the plants. I love the stone walls too. Thanks for sharing your photos, Gerrie.

    1. Thanks Sylvia, and I envied them the beautiful deck, looking out over the garden and the hills….a special place.

  4. Holy cats, what gardens! The plantings, the colors, the sweep, and most important to me, the utterly different look and feel they have compared to my gardens in the forest. Wonderful to see and thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Yes, the landscape is just so different….you can see why I always marvel at your lush green garden and forest.

  5. How I wish I could visit this beautiful garden, it’s simply stunning and works so well with that heavenly landscape of rolling hills and enormous skies. How wonderful to be able to build a house surrounded on three sides by a river! Lucky you getting to visit.xxx

    1. Yes, it is a breath-taking garden, and yes, it would be wonderful to have a garden looking out on that view. You would have loved the birdlife.

    1. Yes, I thought you would like Eagle’s Bluff, the setting for this garden was perfect. One of the Dreamscape books has some lovely US gardens too.

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