The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA -

From the ter­race of Mount Wil­son’s Wilden­stein I can see all the way to down­town Syd­ney; it’s quite a view and one that cap­ti­vated Swans star Buddy Franklin, who was se­cretly wed here late last year. This ro­man­tic gar­den, open by ap­point­ment and for high teas, is also a wed­ding venue run by multi-task­ing jour­nal­ist and news­reader Kee­gan Buzza and in­te­rior de­signer James Stein.

Kee­gan is busy whip­ping up some su­pe­rior scones (lemon­ade be­ing the se­cret in­gre­di­ent) in Wilden­stein’s huge kitchen, clut­tered with the stylish de­tri­tus of a re­cent wed­ding, in an in­cred­i­ble house crammed with out­sized an­tiques.

It’s a stage and the gar­den a the­atre, where lawns sweep down to great banks of aza­leas pop­ping or­ange and pink, guarded by ce­ramic Chi­nese lions. Clipped hedged rooms house lichen-en­crusted stat­ues and benches so ap­par­ently an­cient they ap­pear to grow from the earth. Massed hy­drangeas pro­vide a sump­tu­ous allee.

The prop­erty was es­tab­lished by James’s an­tique dealer fa­ther (also James), who carved the gar­den from a 5ha cow pad­dock over al­most three decades. With an unswerv­ing eye he cre­ated a prop­erty full of in­ter­est and charm, com­mis­sion­ing renowned pot­ter Lino Al­varez to fash­ion a bat­tal­ion of urns to line the drive­way, then plant­ing great swaths of helle­bores at their feet. He mass­planted ev­ery­thing, from blue­bells to hy­drangeas, cre­at­ing mag­i­cal glades among the pine trees and strew­ing the top field with daisies grow­ing in long grass. But most mag­i­cal of all is a dark glade shad­owed by three enor­mous, al­most oak tree-sized banksias.

“They pre­date Cook’s ar­rival,” says Kee­gan, “and are listed by the Na­tional Trust.” Join Kee­gan and James and their ret­inue of In­dian run­ner ducks and gi­ant mas­tiff hounds on the gar­den’s next open day, April 16, dur­ing the Mount Wil­son Au­tumn Fes­ti­val. More: blue­moun­tain­swed­dingv­ Af­ter­wards drop by the en­chant­ing Windyridge with an on­site nurs­ery spe­cial­is­ing in cool-cli­mate plants, open seven days in spring and au­tumn. Third-gen­er­a­tion nurs­ery­man Rodger David­son and his ir­re­press­ible wife Wai man­age this in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful 2ha gar­den more or less by them­selves — the nurs­ery spilling from their quirky Swiss-style cot­tage, the lot en­gulfed by ex­otic trees and shrubs.

Windyridge dates from 1877 and the gar­den has been open to the pub­lic for decades. “The old two-shillings en­try sign is ly­ing about some­where,” says Rodger. But when the David­sons took over in 1995, Wai be­gan cre­at­ing a gar­den on a grand scale. Two years later, their plant col­lec­tion ar­rived in five semi-trail­ers and they set to plant­ing tens of thou­sands of plants and bulbs, more than 2000 aza­leas and about 400 dif­fer­ent Ja­panese maples. With the help of land­scape ar­chi­tect Gor­don Sykes a se­ries of ter­races was laid out and a wood­land walk es­tab­lished, skirt­ing a sunken parterre in shades of green and smoky blue, courtesy of neatly clipped curry plants. There are sheets of cy­cla­men, a huge va­ri­ety of mag­no­lias, white clema­tis scram­bling up stun­ning white flow­er­ing waratah trees, and dozens of rare plants, in­clud­ing dainty blue Ti­betan orchids. Lawn flows down to the cen­tre­piece of this mas­ter­ful gar­den, the stun­ning lake and water­fall cuffed with var­ie­gated iris, gun­nera and other wa­ter-lov­ing plants. I sug­gest vis­it­ing in late Oc­to­ber when Wai’s 10,000 pe­onies are in flower.

Wai has gar­dened at Mount Wil­son since the 1970s so knows the vil­lage like the back of her hand, and over tea (it’s a help-your­self sit­u­a­tion in the nurs­ery), a ret­inue of an­cient dogs doz­ing at our feet, I get the im­pres­sion this is a com­mu­nity en­tirely de­voted to gar­den­ing, with the at­ten­dant ri­val­ries this en­gen­ders (cue a body in the con­ser­va­tory and the im­mi­nent ar­rival of Miss Marple).

There is an el­e­ment of com­pet­i­tive­ness, agrees Kee­gan, but this vil­lage is “es­sen­tially a kin­ship” built around gar­den­ing over a cen­tury-and-a-half, and for vis­i­tors one of the most mag­i­cal places in Aus­tralia.

More: mtwil­


Windyridge, above left; Wilden­stein, above right

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