FROM THE EARTH

A pas­sion for sus­tain­able food in­forms the menu at Oakridge Restau­rant, Yarra Valley, Vic­to­ria.

Country Style - - CONTENTS -

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

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