Autumn in the Macedon Ranges with Stephen Ryan 2024

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16 Apr – 19 Apr 2024

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Autumn in the Macedon Ranges with Stephen Ryan 2024
Tour Highlights

Photo Credit:
The first image on this web page are of the gardens of Bolinda Vale, Victoria, courtesy of Simon Griffiths see Simon Griffiths Photography

Spend 4 days with horticulturalist and plantsman, Stephen Ryan, exploring the spectacular gardens of the Macedon Ranges in Autumn. Stephen is both the President of the Mt Macedon Horticultural Society and Patron for the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria (RHSV).

  • Visit private gardens, several of which are rarely open to the public, Stephen’s own garden, Tugurium, and a number of Mt Macedon’s spectacular 19th-century ‘hill station’ gardens.
  • Explore four hectares of established gardens at the historic working cattle property, Bolobek, with owner Brigid Robertson.
  • Visit historic Bolinda Vale’s garden hosted by Lady Susannah Clarke.
  • Meet Landscape Designer, Sam Crawford, to view her picturesque gardens at Oak House.
  • Dine at the Bistro Terroir, Daylesford, operated by Chef Matthew Carnell, formerly a chef at a Michelin 2 star restaurant in France.
  • Stay at the historic Hotel Bellinzona a welcoming retreat located in the spa town of Hepburn Springs.
  • Limited to 16 participants.

Hill Stations of Mt Macedon
In the late 19th-century Mt Macedon became the region in which to establish a number of ‘Hill Stations’ or summer residences for the then Governors and their key staff. Standing at an elevation of 1101 metres, Mt Macedon provided a much cooler climate than Melbourne. This tour explores a selection of Hill Station gardens for which Mt Macedon is rightly famous; the National Trust has stated that this area has the largest concentration of such gardens anywhere in Australia. Most properties were established in the late 1800s and so predate federation. What are Hill Station gardens? They are usually large properties with substantial homes built by the wealthy of colonial Melbourne to escape the summer heat of the city, much like those of the British Raj in the foot hills of the Himalayas. They were playgrounds that would unashamedly show off the wealth and power of their owners who happily competed with each other to own the grandest house with the rarest plants.

More About Stephen Ryan




The following itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. Several are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast, lunches & dinners indicated in the itinerary where B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

Hepburn Springs - 3 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 16 April, Melbourne – Mt Macedon – Hepburn Springs
  • Bolobek, a historic garden with designer flair: visit with owner Brigid Robertson
  • Alton, one of Mt Macedon’s finest terraced hill stations
  • Welcome dinner at the Hotel Bellinzona

Meeting Point: Corner of Orrong Road and Fulton Street, Armadale at 8.30am. This is 500m from the Toorak Station, 80m from the tram stop on High Street and 450m from the tram stop on Malvern Road.

We leave Melbourne for the green heart of the Macedon Ranges to meet Brigid Robertson, who bought Bolobek, a historic working cattle property, with husband Hugh in 2006. This garden was laid out in the early 1900s and today demonstrates how a creative design style can be overlaid on an earlier garden landscape. Bolobek is on the Victorian Heritage Register because of the quality of its design, artistry and plantings. Brigid will share stories of the people that made the garden and we’ll admire its geometric design, which focuses on attractive bark, soft green foliage and white flowers. At this time of the year the borders will be burgeoning and the oaks and poplars will be turning every shade from yellow to red.

This afternoon we visit Alton, an 1870s Mt Macedon garden which surrounds a Venetian Gothic home, known as the gingerbread house. Established by Sir George Verdon, at various times Victoria’s treasurer and Agent General, it is considered one of the finest terraced hill stations in the region. The garden features an amazing collection of over 600 trees of which 24 are listed on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees including the towering Sitka Spruce or Picea sitchensis which comes from the Pacific north-west and Canada. There is also an English garden influenced by noted Royal Botanic Gardens directors Baron von Mueller and W. R. Guilfoyle. At this time the deciduous trees should be spectacular and include am impressive collection of maples as well as oaks and beech.

We arrive in the spa town of Hepburn Springs in the late afternoon, and following some time at leisure enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona, Hepburn Springs) LD

Day 2: Wednesday 17 April, Hepburn Springs – Daylesford – Mt Macedon – Hepburn Springs
  • Wombat Park, Daylesford
  • Sequoia, Mt Macedon
  • Glen Rannoch, Mt Macedon

A leisurely morning drive brings us to Wombat Park in Daylesford. The gardens are noted for the impressive selection of mature trees in the ‘old garden’ established by William E. Stanbridge from the early 1850s and the ‘new garden’, created by his daughter Florence to complement the distinctive Edwardian homestead designed by Rodney Alsop in 1910.

From Daylesford we continue to Mt Macedon where we begin with a visit to the gardens of Sequoia. This garden is around 5 acres and up until 10 years ago was mainly a paddock. It has some impressive large conifers including a giant Sequoia in one part of the property but the rest is new. The whole paddock was terraced with flights of stairs between and now has bank after bank of stunning flowering trees , shrubs and perennials. A truly remarkable feat in such a short time.

We end the day with a visit to Glen Rannock. Dating back to 1873, this is the third oldest hill station in Mt Macedon. The name ‘Glen Rannoch’ means fern or bracken which has relevance to its location on the ridge. The garden features massive Monkey Puzzles, Hoheria, and Western Hemlock which are listed on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees. There are also grand Atlantic Cedars, beeches, poplars, maples, chestnuts and a green-flowering cherry tree, as well as impressive flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas, viburnums and Stewartia (to name a few) which line moss-covered steps and paths leading to various garden rooms and outbuildings. On a clear day you can see the You Yangs in the distance from above the garden in the lookout.

This evening is at leisure for you to enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in Hepburn Springs.  (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona, Hepburn Springs) BL

Day 3: Thursday 18 April, Hepburn Springs – Clarkefield – Mt Macedon – Daylesford – Hepburn Springs

This morning we visit the gardens of Bolinda Vale owned by Sir Rupert Clarke and Lady Susannah Clarke. Since 2005 the gardens have been transformed and include both an English-style garden and an Australian-style landscape designed by Phillip Johnson.  An outline of the gardens kindly prepared by Susannah may be viewed here.

Just down the road from Bolinda Vale is the picturesque country property, Oak House which takes its name from the two superb examples of English oaks, Quercus robur, which were probably planted in the mid-19th century. This once neglected rural garden has been transformed by landscape designer Sam Crawford who moved here nine years ago. Accompanied by Sam, we enjoy a walk through her beautiful garden to learn more about the process of its design. Sam is the Rural Selection Co-ordinator for Open Garden Victoria. In October 2020, her gardens were featured in Countrystyle which may be viewed here.

Lunch will be hosted by the Mt Macedon & District Horticultural Society at their hall which is located at the Mt Macedon Golf Club.

The Duneira Estate includes an 1875-historic Victorian homestead set in 16 acres at an altitude of 820 metres. The English style gardens which are considered to be of ‘outstanding cultural significance’ by the National Trust of Australia, include a sequence of walled gardens, rolling lawns and several trees listed on the Register of Significant trees of Victoria. The Elm Avenue is referred to as  ‘one of the best surviving examples of a private formal avenue in Victoria’ and feature Dutch Elms which date back to the planting period of Suetonius Officer in the 1870s. Maples are a particular favourite in this garden and will be a blaze of colour in autumn.

Nearby we visit Shepherd’s Bush which is now home to Kevin Edwards, the Treasurer for the Mt Macedon District Horticultural Society and his partner Chris Williams who is the head gardener of Bolobek. Situated at 865 metres above sea level, this is the highest main residence on Mt Macedon. The 3-acre garden which is known for its spring and autumn display, includes European and North American plants.

This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at Bistro Terroir in Daylesford operated by Chef Matthew Carnell, formerly a chef at a Michelin 2-star restaurant in France..  (Overnight Hotel Bellinzona, Hepburn Springs) BLD

Day 4: Friday 19 April, Hepburn Springs – Mt Macedon – Melbourne

This morning we visit Durrol, another of Mt Macedon’s stately hill stations whose 1901 Edwardian weatherboard residence was razed to the ground by fire in 2018 but a new home on the same footprint and with a similar style has been reinstated. The property itself dates back to 1854 when it was purchased by Charles Barns Boatman. It was later developed and named ‘Durrol’, by the then Melbourne Stock Exchange chairman, William Foster Wood and his wife Clara, before being sold to Stanley Allen in 1919 and still belongs to his daughter! The gardens, which are considered of National significance, were designed by the great 20th-century landscape designer Edna Walling for Mrs Stanley Allen in 1925 and feature typical elements such as axial planning, stone paving, circular gardens, rectangular pools, softened by herbaceous plants and hedged boundaries. There is a wonderful balance between this intensively maintained garden and the surrounding open bushland. Our autumn visit should coincide with the best of the deciduous trees in colour including Lindens, oaks and maples.

In 1916 William Cameron, a director of British American Tobacco, established his retreat, Cameron Lodge, with gardens inspired by the Romantic models that were fashionable in Europe. He also erected the memorial Cross on the top of Mt Macedon with his own money to give locals work through the depression and to commemorate the dead of the Great War, it was viewable from his study! The Romantic allusions were further enhanced by the gentle mountain stream, Turritable, which runs through the estate. We will tour this magnificent 10-acre colonial garden which features an original summer pavilion, a Temple of Winds designed by Joan Anderson in 1932, and Roman baths in its lower garden.

Next we visit Tugurium, Stephen Ryan’s own garden which he developed from a vacant burnt block after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. Over the years he has created soil and added mulch to establish an informal garden. The garden is a culmination of decades spent collecting plants and placing them in stimulating combinations of foliage, texture and colour. The garden features winding paths that will take you through woodland plantings, two large and one small tranquil pools and circular lawn, with a small orchard and nearby vegetable garden rounding out the space. Craig Lidgerwood’s stunning botanic art will also be on display.

Following lunch at Tugurium we visit  Tieve Tara (Gaelic for side of the hill), a 6 acre garden at 751 Mt. Macedon Rd. This gracious garden has long sweeping lawns looking down over two sizeable lakes, one of which has a Monet style bridge. The large perennial border was designed by David Glenn for the previous owners and the Japanese garden was done by renown master gardener Fumio Ueda. Much of the unusual plant material scattered around the garden was supplied and placed by Stephen Ryan.

Before returning to Melbourne we visit Stephen Ryan’s rare plant business, Dicksonia Rare Plants, which displays over 2000 different plants from tiny bulbs, desirable climbers, as well as icon shrubs and trees from all over the world.

We are scheduled to arrive back in Melbourne at approximately 5.30pm where our tour ends. BL



Accommodation at the winery includes rooms with en suite bathroom.

  • Hepburn Springs (3 nights): 4-star Hotel Bellinzona  – a welcoming retreat located in the town centre. bellinzona.com.au

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double/twin room for single occupancy throughout the tour. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 4-day Garden Tour of the Macedon Region involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs and uneven terrain.
  • A moderate amount of coach travel, sometimes on winding mountainous roads.
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.00-5.30pm).
  • Accommodation for 3 nights at the 4-star Hotel Bellinzona in Hepburn Springs
  • You must be able to carry your own luggage.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $2990.00 Land Content Only

AUD $395.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities at the 4-star Hotel Bellinzona in Hepburn Springs
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets for site excursions
  • Tips for the coach driver and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Personal spending money
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
  • Porterage
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: your initial deposit of $500.00 is non-refundable.**
  • 75-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**$250.00 of this amount (ie 50% of your deposit) may be credited to another AsA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case earlybird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions or services of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products, services, terms and conditions. If a service provider cancels or does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, and does not give a refund, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (e.g. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, border closures, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any tour service provider or authority however caused (contingencies). You must take out such travel insurance as is available against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour cancelled or changed will be limited to the partial refund of amounts you have paid, less an administration fee of $500 and other costs and charges of third party service providers. No compensation will be payable to you by ASA where ASA cancels or changes a tour, or any part of a tour.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate and in the best interests of health, safety and wellbeing of tour participants. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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