Lambley: late Autumn Garden.

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I've been inspired by David Glenn's Lambley Garden in Central Victoria ever since I became a serious (but uneducated in the science of horticulture) gardener about eighteen years ago. I've bought quite a few plants from there by mail order. So it was with much anticipation that I approached Lambley a couple of weeks ago, during our recent road tour of Victoria. We had been staying in the charming town of Daylesford, and Lambley is only a short drive away. Victoria, like so much of Australia, has been starved of rain for some time, and the countryside we passed through, although very beautiful, is also very dry.

Although I didn't get to meet them, I've learned that David and his artist wife Chris Canning have lived at Lambley for nearly thirty years.  Soon after arriving there David realised that the climate dictated that he would have to concentrate on the kinds of plants that could cope with extremes of temperatures,  from mornings of -8C in winter to highs of 40C+ in summer, rather than the gentle flowers of his native England.

Lambley is a series of 'rooms' containing a dry climate garden (which is seldom watered), a Mediterranean garden, a flower garden and a vegetable garden all connected by gravel paths and tree-shaded walks. Around the perimeter of the whole is a two metre high European privet hedge which helps to shelter the gardens from the hot dry summer winds of this area.


The Dry Climate garden is entered through a single opening in the impressive hedge. Inside are five lofty olive trees, the branches of which have been pruned high so that the sun can reach the hardy plants beneath. The visitor can follow gravel paths and admire a selection of plants from Australia as well as from Turkey, Mexico, California, Southern Europe and other places where hardy plants are found. The occupants of the garden are watered in at planting and then left pretty much to their own devices. Apart from whatever rain falls, the dry garden might receive three more waterings a year if necessary.


The Mediterranean garden has  an abundance  of bee-laden perennials filling wide borders with bounteous colour and volume, overflowing  onto  paths, and at this late stage of the season, creating a mesmerising tangle of hues and shapes.

Here Nepeta has all but obliterated the path to an urn in the background while Clematis competes with bright uplifting dahlias for a slice of the action.

Above: Here Nepeta has all but obliterated the path to an urn in the background while bright uplifting Dahlias compete with Clematis for a slice of the action.

And looking at the urn from the opposite direction, the visitor sees a much more formal aspect with carefully clipped hedges flanking an immaculate path.

And looking at the urn from the opposite direction, the visitor sees a much more formal aspect with carefully clipped hedges flanking an immaculate path.

The pear walk, planted with Pyrus Calleryana, has an underplanting of white Japanese anemones and a beautifully kept grassy sward. Look how the sun dapples through the leaves onto the path.

The pear walk, planted with Pyrus calleryana, has an underplanting of white Japanese anemones and a beautifully kept grassy sward. Look how the sun dapples through the leaves onto the path.

Another formal walk, this time flanked by Mediterranean cypress, Cupressus Sempervirens. The blue seat is a very Italian touch.

Another formal walk, this time bordered by Mediterranean cypress, Cupressus sempervirens. I thought the blue bench was Italian, but I’ve learnt it’s an English Lutyens bench, thank you Christina. I expect if I’d read more about Gertrude Jekyll I might have known that! It looks striking at the end of the walk.

We had a more than pleasurable visit to this garden and it certainly  lived up to my expectations.  I loved walking along those paths admiring all the plants and the dedication that has gone into making this place such a showpiece. Was there a nursery?  Yes, there was, but bearing in mind that I was going to have to keep my plants alive, in the car, for the best part of two weeks, I was circumspect in my purchases and bought only  some small pots of perennials and some tulip bulbs.

One more word about Lambley: there is no charge to enter!  David Glenn says he wants everyone to be able to enjoy the garden. Nor is there any pressure to buy, but of course you want to, having just seen such amazing beauty.


Have you been to an open garden or nursery that you really enjoyed? I'd love to hear about it.

You can click on the links to see more of Lambley (and there are gardening notes) or Chris Canning's artwork.


Driving anywhere from Mudgee (I'm including Gulgong and Rylstone in 'Mudgee')  is a reasonably lengthy business.  We're slightly isolated here and it's at least an hour and a half of driving before we reach anywhere else. This is nothing, I know, compared to the distances people all over Australia drive, but it sometimes seems a chore to have to do it. On this last day of 2017, however, it was a trip well worth making.  After a couple of tiffs with our GPS, and a pleasant diversion through Portland, we found ourselves at the gates of Hillandale Garden and Nursery in Yetholme, about 20km from Bathurst.

A long winding drive took us downhill to the property, which is so aptly named.  A short walk past a dam found us  at the start of a light-speckled path through stands of mature trees, natives and exotics, which then opens out onto a long vista over hummocky mounds and dales.


A short walk across the garden over handmade stone bridges and past the dam (rather low in this long dry period)  brings the visitor to the pièce de résistance: the herbaceous perennial border.

This border is 100 metres long, and 7 metres wide.  Yes, really!  It has a softly mulched path meandering though the centre, and meander we did, admiring a luxuriance of plants in an array of colours worthy of M. Monet's palette. It's an absolute explosion of colour, seemingly without plan, and yet the natural juxtaposition of colours, textures and shapes work together to create a decidedly pleasing pastiche.  Along the way we caught glimpses of the old farmhouse and its attractive outhouses (potting shed, glasshouse, ex-packing shed: the property was once an orchard) gently reposing amongst the flower beds and grassy knolls.  There are hundreds of different perennials in this border, and at this time of the year, they are resplendently abloom.   Adding interesting height in the border are shrubs and small trees such as buddleias in various colours, strappy grasses and smoke bushes.



At the top of the border we reached  the various outbuildings where we met Sarah and Andrew, the extremely hard-working owners of the property, and spent some time having a pleasant chat with them.  Sarah explained to me that each winter the border, with the exception of trees and shrubs, is mowed to the ground, the clippings left as mulch and straw laid on top.  All ready for next Spring when perennials, as they are wont to do, explode out of the ground ready for the next season.


A walk on the south side of the house led us through massed shade-loving plantings to a grassy glen where in rainier times there would be a streamlet running....not much more than a trickle now. I was surprised to see tree ferns growing happily here and looking outstandingly healthy in a climate that is perhaps a little outside their comfort zone. And there we reached the end of our visit.  What an inspiration it was to visit this beautiful place: I think another visit in a different season would be in order


A Garden Visit

An April visit to a nearby garden in Rylstone revealed a number of charming views with the afternoon sun glancing through the trees and settling on various sitting areas. I would have been delighted to sink down upon one of these chairs and enjoy the peace on another day, but the garden was full of visitors and I joined them in admiring the work of the owners.



At the front of the house was a shrubbery of natives full of tiny yellow-rumped thornbills,  which had made this safe area their home.
A cleverly designed vegetable garden area displayed a variety of greens growing contentedly alongside a stunning Sturt’s Desert Pea that was much admired by everyone.