Thursday, May 6, 2021



Hello there,
I have been away on holiday...
and am very grateful that we have been able to do so.
We flew to Sydney, and then went on to a tour:
'Autumn Gardens of the Blue Mountains'.

We see very little Autumn colour here in the sub-tropics, and this was a rare treat.

Situated to the West of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are part of the Great Dividing Range, and enjoy a much cooler climate.  The area was settled in the early 1800s by English people keen to have cool country retreats, and yes, sadly displacing the local aboriginal people in the process.

We saw ten gardens over four days, travelling by coach.
They ranged from very large to very small, and were all remarkably different.
The beautiful Japanese Maple was the one constant, gorgeous in its red Autumn colour.

Our Tour leader was horticulturist Elizabeth Swane,  member of a famous Australian plant nursery and rose-growing family.  She guests on ABC Radio and writes for several national magazines.
Elizabeth led our little group of 12 garden enthusiasts with great cheer and a sense of fun.  She shared her knowledge and took care of tour matters very competently...
She even shared a bag of mandarins from her own citrus tree!

Of course, I took hundreds of photos.
I think the whole group agreed the Best Garden was this one, 'Windyridge Garden' at Mount Wilson.
It features lots of cool climate plants, water features, sculptures, and the prettiest lake of the many lakes encountered:

The Most Fascinating Garden Host, was surely Peter Piggot, current owner of Yengo Sculpture Garden.  It was our fourth garden that day, and Peter greeted us with a glass of champagne, seated us in his living room, and told us all about his Colonial Garden, which he has tended for fifty years.  It was established in 1877.

Yengo means the place of many trees in the Gundungurra language.

Peter Piggot has commissioned and installed many cast bronze sculptures and water features in his garden, the work of two international sculptors, Lloyd Le Blanc and Judith Holmes Drewry.

A Giant North American cedar, much larger than it appears here.
We could creep inside:

Under the canopy it looks like this.  The tree sends out these 'saplings' from the main trunk (right in the picture) which go out then up.  The whole tree is covered in a thick canopy of green.  I imagine in ancient times these trees would have provided man with shelter.

Brolgas, by Lloyd le Blanc

My Largest Garden award goes to Mayfield Garden, a vast privately-owned cool climate garden at Oberon, to the West of the Blue Mountains. 

Mayfield is relatively new, begun in the 1980s, and continues to expand.  38 acres are now open with growing collections of Maples, Oaks, Birch and Beech, and many more.

We began our tour on a hilltop, where the owner has built a stone chapel for his daughter's wedding:

We wound our way down to the lower level ponds and streams...
Everything at Mayfield is Big!

The Grotto...

The house of the owner is up on the hill.

The Red Japanese Bridge...

The lily ponds inspired by Monet...

Vast plantings of trees...

Bridges and rills, ponds and lakes...
It was astonishing.
It would be good to be able to see into the future, and what it will be like in fifty years time...

Best Tough Climate Garden would have to be the beautiful Highfields Country Garden, at Little Hartley.

This eight acre property was established just recently, in 2014, and was an education in a prairie garden on a cold, wind-swept, bare hill.  Lots of grasses and flowers hug the hillside with a path winding down to a small pond at the bottom.  Seed heads are left to dry on the plants as a part of the life cycle, enabling reseeding and rejuvenation of the plants the following season. 
The many stone work paths, bridges and water runs done by one of the owners were quite amazing.  Does he ever sleep?


Olives! We think we might try to grow one of these..

Our charming hosts provided us with a cup of tea at the end of a beautiful afternoon.

There has to be a smallest, and it was last on the programme, a tiny garden in the town of Leura, about the size of six car parking spots.

The home of an artist, this converted former commercial space with studio and living area, it is just big enough for an enchanting little mountain garden on a steep slope.

This was an excellent choice to end our tour.  A small, compact garden is all most of us have, and there were lots of inspirational ideas to be found.

We ended our tour with a delicious dinner at Le Petite Chateau, a regional restaurant in a farmhouse.

The owners' pet goats bleat Goodnight under last week's super moon.

Our trip was possible because the border between Queensland and New South Wales has been open for some time.  We travelled very carefully, wore masks in our Sydney hotel, and were mindful of distancing at all times.  The choice of a garden tour was certainly influenced by the desire for outside venues, and fresh country air.  We were socially distanced on our big tour coach.

Happily, we managed several visits to our twin grandsons before and after the garden tour, which was an absolute delight.

And now, safely home, we realise just how fortunate we were, as The Virus has emerged again in the Sydney community.  If we had been in the relevant areas, we would now have to quarantine but luckily that was not the case.

What a game of roulette our lives have become, but there is no other country in the world I would prefer to have spent the past year than here in Australia.

Be safe, take care.


The twins are crawling and exploring the world in their little boots for cold days.