Monday, 8 October 2012


I am slowly coming down from my horticultural (and altitudinal) high. I saw more than blossom alone in the Blue Mountains: some good gardens, a wealth of spring bulbs, woodland perennials (I bought more than a couple) and best of all, chat with similar gardeners with a bent for some of my favourite plants: Trout Lilies (Erythronium), Barrenwort (Epimedium), Cyclamen species…
First David’s Clover Hill in Katoomba. A really pretty sloping garden holds some seriously lovely plants…and plants for sale. (I wonder what the motel cleaner thought of the pots and loose soil in the rubbish…but I did get on the plane home with my acquisitions…phew. Potted up again, they are recovering nicely.) I’d wanted to visit David for some time; I think that we 2 are the maddest of the Epimedium lovers in Australia. His garden is a mix of formal and informal, hedges and soft plantings, stonework and gravel; it’s charming. There seems to be 2 sorts of woodland gardeners: those like David and me, who concentrate on the delicate-looking plants, and others who go all out with rhododendrons (you know what I think of them), the huge lilies and hydrangeas. Libby at Merrygarth, Mount Wilson is in the second group, but still has lots of tiny treasures like Trillium and trout lilies, even swathes of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria) with its fleeting white flowers. Her large garden gets away with its dwarf inhabitants by the sheer numbers. I used to want a big garden too, but I think that – until I retire – I’d rather have a smaller plot to keep the scale right.

To my delight, Nooroo, a garden steeped in history, was open; perfect simplicity in the rolling lawns adorned only (other than the well-known white summer house) with wooden seats and blossom trees, and one or two sheets of bluebells. I clearly need to return to see the famous Wisteria court (created circa 1970 by Peter Valder, author of the definitive Wisteria monograph, and his family) when it’s in bloom.
Mount Tomah was next but I was too tired to properly explore this botanic garden.
Sunshine lured me to a couple of gardens on Sunday.
Everglades is a large hillside garden in Leura which I think I’ve seen before; what a difference 25 years, better health, seasons (spring this time) and awareness for good design (by Peter Sorensen) make! I fell in love with the stone walls, some curving like flourishes, the drifts of bluebells (below), the framed views and terraces, particularly the cherry terrace where a pair of wood ducks bonded beneath the cascading blooms. A hellebore walk near the top shows an English sensibility but great Italianate terraces (Lilac, garden theatre) lead down to some white-trunked gums, bush and a lookout over the escarpments of the mountain range. One problem, however, are some brick walls; the stone ones are beautiful, these are not. Planting creeping fig at the foot of these would hide most of the only blight in this otherwise superb garden.
En route to Sydney I briefly popped into a hideous open garden, and then fled to the airport.

At Everglades I looked carefully at the bluebells; I was interested to see that all of them (thousands!) curved over a little, a cross between the elegant English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta, left) and the robust and upright Spanish Bluebell (H. hispanica, right): a hybrid bulb that grows well and is attractive. Is this a metaphor for the multicultural garden, like this one, like many Australian gardens? Or is that just too cute?

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