Oct 23, 2012

In Unenglish Country Gardens

A tour of four Victorian country gardens: a heavenly season of dry plantings, dams and spring blossoms.

W H Chong — Culture Mulcher

W H Chong

Culture Mulcher

How many songbirds fly to and fro
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know

– Trad.

We gave up tickets to a modern dance session on Sunday because it couldn’t really compete with a sunny outing to the country with the dogs. Constant Gardener wanted to visit some of the open gardens in the north to check out dry plantings; we saw two in Castlemaine and a couple in Harcourt.

The first in Castlemaine proper was a large suburban block, divided into “rooms.” It was a spectacular triumph of idiosyncracy, a dense display of delights. Full of spring blooms, somehow all the disparate parts held together because of each portion’s joy in detail. If this is your cup of chai, you can book the adjoining, sleek little cottage and read your books in this verdant library.

Outside town was a rather grander property. It also had the most undeveloped shaped gardens, or the most promise, as CG put it tactfully. But the house was grand, and there was a pretty little shady copse and a couple of large trees with golden moss which I found irresistible.

Near Harcourt on Hagues Rd are a couple of well-known places. Lixouri is gorgeously Mediterranean in feeling with its deep, layered plantings and a dam currently full of water and frogs — Bongk, bongk, bongk. One could sit here happily for hours. The owner-gardener, Margaret Beyer, is up for ABC Gardening’s Gardener of the Year.

Finally, next door, at Hedgehogs, was the most impressive of them all — and hardest to photograph or take the measure of. You enter by the side of a splendid little pond (Gordon Ford’s last design) that leads on past the house into a very large, expansive space with rolling greens and a dam or two and even a wood-fired pizza oven. The kitchen garden (with its charming arrow gate arch welded by the owners) is maybe the most impressive bit of kitchen-gardenry we’ve seen with its caged mini-orchards. The place is dotted with attractive large-scale pieces by the owners’ son, the scuptor Jamieson Miller.

Hedgehogs and Lixouri are open again in November as part of the Castlemaine and District Festival of Gardens.



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3 thoughts on “In Unenglish Country Gardens

  1. Microseris

    I’m with G.O. Lovely gardens, for England! Fine example of our cultural cringe. Also they look like they are from the 1800’s.

    Wheres the herbicide..

  2. Luke Buckmaster

    Looking at this post feels like eyeball sex.

  3. Graeme O'Neill


    Water-hungry English gardens in a grim season of climate change, and severe drought in prospect in the coming decades. Few native birds – just 19th century pests like blackbirds and sparrows, introduced by the Acclimatisation Societies. Alien garden escapees have left Australia with a costly and intractable legacy of environmental and agricultural weeds. Culturally and environmentally inappropriate. Our native flora is neglected, largely unknown, magnificent, and hospitable for native insect, bird and mammal species. Why are we still living like bush-hating colonials?

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