The gardener’s bucket list: Lambley Gardens & Nursery
The spectacular display of flowers and foliage at Lambley includes carefully selected rare plants from around the world, writes AB BISHOP
Approaching Lambley Gardens & Nursery, you may question your navigation skills – all around you are flat paddocks, curious cows and sheep, with nary a world-class garden to be seen. Finally, a sign indicates your successful arrival, and so begins your understanding of why this garden in regional Victoria is so revered.
Entrance is via a long, gravel driveway flanked by an avenue of flowering cherries (Prunus serrulata ‘Mt Fuji’) underplanted with agapanthus. There’s still little hint of the visual feast beyond dense European privet hedges (Ligustrum vulgare) that defend against blasting winds, define various garden rooms, and provide a simple backdrop for what is essentially a series of exquisite living paintings.
Lambley was devised, designed and created by plantsman David Glenn and artist Criss Canning. They purchased the 16ha old potato farm in 1991, restoring a dilapidated farmhouse and developing a garden using discerning combinations of frost- and drought-hardy plant varieties.
Adjacent to the house, a woodland garden surrounding a tree-dotted lawn showcases hellebores, irises and bluebells. In the walled front garden, a mature maple, daphnes and abundant gladioli, salvias, roses and lilies signal the seasons with dynamic displays. “I love the coming and going of foliage and flowers; I don’t want a static garden,” says David, who maintained his very first garden at eight years of age.
To develop a beautiful and sustainable garden, David has collected seed legally from countries with a similar climate to Lambley’s. Plants from as far afield as southern Europe, Morocco, Greece, Syria, Turkey, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, California, Arizona, Mexico, Chile, South Africa and China (among others) are trialled for five years in surrounding paddocks to ascertain their worthiness for inclusion in the display gardens. “They should be long-flowering, easily grown, with appealing proportions,” says David.
Throughout the year, thousands of judiciously selected beauties flaunt their seasonal glory. Winter visitors delight in sweet and cheery daffodils, aconites and snowdrops, while spring brings lilacs, clematis and so many tulips you’ll think you’ve fallen into a rainbow.
Summer and autumn showcase myriad botanical possibilities of what gardeners can achieve in a hot, dry summer climate with frosty winters and blustery winds. No more excuses for shabby gardens!
Meandering, camera at the ready, you discover the large organic vegetable and flower-cutting garden, with elements purposefully echoing Monet’s garden at Giverny (see the February issue for more on that). It inspires with its orderliness and mass plantings.
A rarely irrigated ‘dry garden’ is a masterclass in plant positioning and contrast. Within what is essentially a 20m x 50m flower bed, mature olive trees become silvery exclamation marks juxtaposed against a cacophony of colour. Native birds dart everywhere.
Inspired visitors may purchase seed, bulbs or seedlings of Lambley’s ornamental and produce plants onsite or via mail order. Two of the many plants David has bred that are popular worldwide are Agastache ‘Sweet Lili’ (named after his granddaughter) and Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’, which was recognised with an Award of Garden
Merit from the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society in 2015. I challenge anybody to walk away empty-handed!
Lambley owner David Glenn in the woodland garden, where guided guests can delight in the seasonal displays of granny’s bonnets (Aquilegia spp.), hellebores (Helleborus spp.) and bluebells (Hyacinthoides spp.). LEFT
LAMBLEY GARDENS & NURSERY in Ascot, Victoria
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN A pergola covered with trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), framed by wigwams of Clematis ‘Golden Tiara’; blue Echinops bannaticus contrasts with yellow Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’; the organic vegie patch; beehives with blue Rosmarinus o cinalis ‘Mozart’ in the foreground.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Olives provide a uniform structure against the ever-changing foliage and flower combinations in the garden; a mass planting of the beautiful red-flowering Tulipa eichleri; a view through an arbor reveals a border brimming with flowers.