FROM THE EARTH
A passion for sustainable food informs the menu at Oakridge Restaurant, Yarra Valley, Victoria.
THE PLANE SWOOPS DOWN over the Adelaide Hills, then executes a neat turn, gliding in over the Gulf St Vincent. The sea is the colour of bottle-green glass and so calm that the sandy-coloured houses and Norfolk Island pines lining the shore are reflected in the water. You can tell it’s hot. Out on the concourse in front of the airport terminal, a warm wind is blowing from the north. It’s a good day to be heading out of town, following a time-honoured tradition. In many outposts of the British empire in the 19th century, Australia included, families moved to the hills, Darjeeling fashion, to escape the heat of the plains and enjoy the shade of ferny glades and mountain outlooks. James Inglis, previously a resident in India, travelled over the Blue Mountains in 1879 and wrote: “We stopped for refreshments at Mount Victoria. This is the favourite summer mountain resort of many of the elite of Sydney. It is the Simla of New South Wales.” The well-to-do of Adelaide made similar sojourns. Alick Downer, writing about his family in The Downers of South Australia, describes how his father, twice premier of South Australia, discovered a country property near Stirling in the Adelaide Hills as he rode his horse along Coxs Creek on his way to parliament. During the 1880s, John Downer and family would make a December departure from the city and not return until mid-april. He planted many of the exotic trees at the property he named Glenalta and expanded the house into a two-storey Georgian-style residence. During the 20th century, in common with other hill station gardens including those in Victoria and New South Wales, Glenalta has experienced periods of neglect. It has seen prosperity and hard times. John Downer’s son, James Frederick Downer and James’s wife Florence, extended and developed the garden from the 1920s to the 1940s. The garden was further expanded under the ownership of Henry Rymill, who had married James and Florence’s daughter, Alleyne (who died in 1942). However, after Henry’s death in 1971, it was neglected. By the time Geoff and the late Robyn Stewart purchased the 32-hectare property in 1987, the hectare of once-immaculate garden was in serious decline. Garden historian Trevor Nottle, who lives in the Adelaide Hills, says that the big Hills gardens such as Glenalta suffered after the Second World War. He argues that available money was directed into new business enterprises and housing, and could not be spared for remaking long-neglected gardens. However, the boom in mineral exploration and mining in the 1970s brought new wealth to South Australia. With this, interest grew in buying and rejuvenating old Hills homes and gardens and Glenalta is one of the beneficiaries of that era. Trevor rates Glenalta as one of South Australia’s most important gardens. It reflects several eras in Australian garden history — as a place of cool retreat during the hill station decades, through to the present day, where visionary garden owners have preserved the garden for the future yet kept the atmosphere of the past. >
Clipped box balls are placed along the verandah at intervals, and a series of grass terraces, defined by box hedges, descend into the shadiest part of the garden; Wachendorfia; flowers of the oak-leaf hydrangea. FACING PAGE, FROM TOP Backed by a pittosporum hedge, this 20-metre-long traditional flower border in the English style is planted in colour themes from pale tones of yellow and white through to rich purple; Astrantia and clematis.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP