DESCRIBE THE GARDEN:
I have a country property in the Yarra Valley of 121ha, with a large garden that runs down to 4km of river frontage. A driveway kilometres long offers spectacular views of the countryside as you enter. It marries a 60-year-old traditional garden with a contemporary Australian garden, designed and built by Phillip Johnson five years before he won best in show at London’s Chelsea Flower Show. He created a 600m cascade running down to the river, with massive rocks, a lushly planted billabong and overflowing pools surrounded by tough, dry-tolerant natives. The billabong is fed by water collected off the roof; solar panels run the pumps. When my late husband and I came here in 2000, we inherited a marvellous but derelict garden of camellias, magnolias and roses that took five years to restore. To the long pergola covered in ‘ Lamarque’ roses, we added a Seville orange walk. The orchard has an original magnificent fig tree, now joined by six other fig varieties, plus nectarines, peaches, apricots, pears, quinces and apples. A small olive grove and large vegetable beds are nearby.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:
Margaret Stokes spent 50 years here, planting things that do well. She was a wonderful gardener. She collected acorns at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens and planted about 100 oaks around the house garden and as windbreaks. They are marvellously tough: after the fires went through them they just started up again. She also planted copper beech, English ash and claret ash. I’ve added jacarandas and
Grevillea robusta to give me a thrill, reminding me of Sydney Harbour where I grew up. I also adore banksias so there are huge numbers of those in the dry garden.