Day 1: Tuesday 27 April, Melbourne – Mt Macedon – Woodend – Lancefield
- Bolobek, a historic garden with designer flair: visit with owner Brigid Robertson
- Caelum Gardens
- Ard Choille Heritage Garden
- Welcome dinner at the Cleveland Winery
Meeting Point: 38 Huntingtower Road, Armadale at 8.30am.
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.
The gardens at Caelum were originally created in 1994 by landscape designer Grant Saltmarsh and have been nurtured by former owners Margaret and Mal Pisaro. This 0.6 hectare garden includes a sunken garden, caged vegetable garden, and meandering paths flanked by perennial beds and mature fruit trees. A highlight is the large stone fountain with its attendant formal gardens. We also view rare and unusual plants and trees influenced by Stephen Ryan and Dicksonia Rare Plants nursery that thrive in the micro-climates of the garden. The current owners have kept up this relationship and the plant palette is broadening with horticulturally important new plantings.
On the northern side of Mt Macedon, we visit Ard Choille, an 1890s hill station established by William MacGregor (who was a founding shareholder of BHP) which is both botanically and historically one of the most renowned gardens in the region. This inspirational 19th-century garden, which has taken full advantage of the unique cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, features a huge array of exotic trees and shrubs. Our horticultural walk takes us past sweeping lawns, ornamental lakes and along stone steps where we may explore the many and varied garden rooms. At the top of the gardens we may view the fine and rare 19th-century metal shade house which has been classified by the National Trust, and catch a glimpse of Hanging Rock in the distance.
In the summer of 1901, Frederick McCubbin purchased ‘Fontainebleau’ which lay immediately below Ard Choille. The house, garden and surrounding bushland subsequently became one of his major painting grounds. It was here that he produced such works as The Pioneer (1904), a triptych whose second panel includes a small cottage located at Ard Choille. The pond of Ard Choille, named Lake Strathmore, is also featured in Frederick McCubbins’ painting Afterglow (1912) which is held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Natural bush seen in the painting still surrounds much of Ard Choille.
We arrive at the Cleveland Winery in the late afternoon and following some time at leisure enjoy a welcome dinner at the winery’s restaurant. (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) LD
Day 2: Wednesday 28 April, Lancefield – Ascot – Newlyn – Trentham – Lancefield
This morning we visit Lambley Nursery in Ascot, home of horticulturalist David Glenn and his wife, artist Criss Canning. Their gardens have been created around an old farmhouse. David has learnt to work with Ballarat’s harsh climate and has transformed barren paddocks into beautifully designed spaces, overflowing with colour and structure. The striking dry garden, which is watered no more than four times a year, will supply inspiration to those gardening with limited water. David is a plant breeder; his best known release is Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’. He also trials flowers, fruits and vegetables which are on display in his bountiful edible garden.
Following a picnic lunch, a leisurely drive brings us to Bank House Newlyn. Bank House once served as the National Bank of Australasia’s Newlyn branch, but now, the historic weatherboard cottage is a country home set in an extraordinary garden. Andrew Lowth and Nigel Smith, with a nod to English landscape and perennial gardening, have created a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, combining formal structure and exuberant and rare plantings in a romantic garden design. Behind the house, a gentle slope leads to a series of surprises concealed behind hedges of hornbeam, privet and japonica. Formal allées are juxtaposed with woodland glades and walks, a meadow garden and a lush, ornamental vegetable garden.
Next we travel to Trentham to visit the private gardens of Simon Rickard. Simon’s home garden was never intended for public display. It was conceived as a private space where he could test new ideas, plants, and combinations before foisting them on his unsuspecting clients, as well as indulging his plantsman’s love of the rare and unusual. Simon’s challenge has been to cobble these eclectic tastes into something coherent and beautiful.
Tonight we enjoy another group meal at the Cleveland Winery Restaurant. (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) BLD
Day 3: Thursday 29 April, Lancefield – Mt Macedon – Kyneton – Lancefield
Today is devoted to exploring more of Mt Macedon’s finest terraced hill stations. We begin this morning with a tour of 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.
Lunch will be hosted by the Mt Macedon & District Horticultural Society at their hall which is located at the Mt Macedon Golf Club.
This afternoon we visit 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.
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 the Midnight Starling, Kyneton. Operated by chef Steve Rogers, an alumni of restaurant Jacques Reymond, this fine dining restaurant taps into the French tradition of flavoursome food. (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) BLD
Day 4: Friday 30 April, Lancefield – Mt Macedon – Melbourne
- Durrol Garden
- Cameron Lodge
- Dicksonia Rare Plants
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 the private gardens of Lisnacrieve, situated in the golden mile and offering commanding views of Mt Macedon and the Memorial Cross. The gardens feature sweeping lawns, deciduous rhododendrons and extensive woodland plantings. The cascading Turritiable Creek borders the lower garden.
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