Legacy that con­tin­ues to bloom

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - LUKE DENNEHY

GAR­DENER Michael Mor­ri­son walked through the gates of Cruden Farm in 1971 and hasn’t left.

The 74-year-old has nur­tured the world-renowned gar­dens for al­most 50 years and forged a work­ing bond with Dame Elis­a­beth Mur­doch along the way.

The pair’s metic­u­lous plans for the gar­den are still be­ing car­ried out, six years af­ter Dame Elis­a­beth’s death.

Mr Mor­ri­son said his life was for­ever changed when he went to the Mur­doch’s Lang­war­rin prop­erty in Vic­to­ria for a job in­ter­view.

“The time has gone in a flash,” he said of the past few decades. “I started my 48th year in the sec­ond week of Septem­ber, and it seems like yes­ter­day.”

Un­der Dame Elis­a­beth’s di­rec­tion, the Cruden Farm gar­dens have grown into one of the na­tion’s finest.

Mr Mor­ri­son had a unique in­sight into the world of Dame Elis­a­beth, but it was their shared love of gar­den­ing that was the foun­da­tion of their long-last­ing part­ner­ship.

They re­spected each other’s gar­den­ing knowl­edge im­mensely.

“When you work with some­one in the gar­den for that amount of time, you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t work­ing think in a sim­i­lar vein and work well with each other,” he said.

It’s a re­mark­able work­ing re­la­tion­ship, that fea­tures in the new Fox­tel doc­u­men­tary In­side Dame Elis­a­beth’s Gar­den.

Mr Mor­ri­son would up­date the “boss” every morn­ing on what plants had flow­ered and how the gar­den­ers were keep­ing the gar­den in tip-top shape.

“Even the last year she was alive, she was planning the gar­den,” he said. “These past six years we are still im­ple­ment­ing plans she had in place.

“Quite of­ten early in the morn­ing, straight af­ter break­fast, be­fore she had left for the day, we would go around and have a look at the gar­den and plan things.

“She was a great be­liever in the struc­ture of ev­ery­day life.” Dame Elis­a­beth and the Mur­doch fam­ily have en­ter­tained politi­cians, VIPS, me­dia fig­ures and celebri­ties at the Cruden Farm prop­erty over the decades, but one thing al­ways stuck with Mr Mor­ri­son about the na­ture of Dame Elis­a­beth. “It didn’t mat­ter who it was, she treated ev­ery­one equally,” he said.

“It didn’t mat­ter if it was some­one who was ad­mired for what they achieved, or the neigh­bour who might come in for a walk around the gar­den, she found ev­ery­one in­ter­est­ing. She had that won­der­ful abil­ity, no mat­ter what was go­ing on in her life, or how busy she was, if she was speak­ing to you, she would ask you what you did, and you had her full at­ten­tion.

“She wasn’t just be­ing po­lite, she would ask you be­cause she wanted to know.” For the past year, hosts Mag­gie Beer and renowned land­scape gar­dener Paul Ban­gay have been film­ing In­side Dame Elis­a­beth’s Gar­den, fea­tur­ing Mr Mor­ri­son.

Dur­ing a tour of the gar­den, you can see the work Mr Mor­ri­son has put into it. He knows every plant and tree, and what it was planted for.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mor­ri­son, who now works part-time, he is a re­luc­tant co-star but pleased the gar­dens, their her­itage and his­tory have been doc­u­mented.

“I think it would be a lot bet­ter if it didn’t have the grumpy old gar­dener in it!,” he says of him­self.

A SHARED PAS­SION: Michael Mor­ri­son in the gar­dens of Cruden Farm and, above, with Dame Elis­a­beth Mur­doch, in­set above.

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