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.


Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.








































29 Replies to “Hillandale: a garden for the Impressionists”

  1. What a fantastic place, you show it to us to well through your excellent photographs. I do hope you go back there.

  2. Oh what a glorious garden. I can quite see why you spent so long there. And that parrot is looking quite royal among the flowers!

    1. We haven’t seen many like this in Australia, and we, too, are inspired to plant a border just like this one…hope spring eternal!

  3. What a lovely garden! I definitely need an Andrew in my life! As a gardener, I can only imagine what a garden like this takes in manpower to maintain. So glad these owners have the funds to keep this landscape pristine and the imagination to create it. In my next life I want to come down under…Diane

    1. I’ll pass that on to Sarah and Andrew, I think it is a labour of love for them, and I know Sarah is in the garden every day, and is very much a self-taught gardener. It is inspiring to go to a garden like this. Good to know you are booked up for Australia in your next life!

  4. That garden is amazing, The borders just seem to flow into the landscape, that is my favourite type of garden. That was a wonderful anniversary present too! Sarah x

  5. This garden fair takes my breath away, oh to have such a beautiful garden! Truly stunning, thank you for sharing, an inspiration for sure. I loved that King parrot too….wow!xxx

    1. Yes, the King Parrot looks as if he is matching the flowers! I’d love to have a garden like that too, maybe we just need to wave a magic wand!

    1. Yes, that is exactly the way to describe the garden, unfussy flow, I think there is an artistic touch in this garden.

  6. 390! That is a serious border! And it’s quite lovely. The garden does look very lush and green, what I would associate more with England than Australia.

    1. Yes, the rainfall is high for that region, but Sarah said it has been very dry this summer……hope the garden (and border) stays intact.

    1. This garden was really special & yes, we would also like to try a small version of that splendid border (in Autumn)… Hope springs eternal!

  7. Hi Geraldine
    Oh, what a beautiful garden and what memories your post brings back to me! Yetholme is a stunning place to grow all those cold-climate exotic plants – it’s one of the few places in Ausralia with deep, rich soil.
    I spent most of my childhood in Yetholme, in Macabees Road. The elevation near our house was 1300m and we experienced a lot more snow than you would see down near the highway. My mother’s garden was full of rhododendrons, camellias, bulbs and perennials, most of which are still there today even though when I was last there, the garden was quite neglected.
    Yetholme now has several lovely gardens and I’ll certainly be getting to see them when I do my next nostalgic trip to the Bathurst district.
    Thank you for the beautiful images and best wishes,

    1. Hi Shirley… Well no wonder you have such a passion for gardening! Yetholme is a Gardeners dream …. But Sarah said they have had no decent rain this summer at Hillandale. We will certainly go back to Yetholme in another season. Thanks for the comment.

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