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.
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.
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 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.