I celebrated a milestone birthday on 12th October. Just co-incidentally, I noticed online a couple months before, that there was going to be a Secret Gardens of the Dandenong Ranges Tour on my birthday! There were 4 other days it was operating too, however for me it was significant that it was on my birthday. I excitedly told my husband and he said he'd buy it for me as my birthday gift. That, for me, was the perfect gift. And many of my gardening friends said the same.
When the day came I couldn't wait to get to the Karwarra Australian Plant Garden in Kalorama to join the other tourists going on this tour. Turned out there were 50 of us, spread between two small buses. We met at 9.30am, had a cuppa and listened to one of the garden owners speak before being divided up amongst the buses. The tour guide on my bus was Eddie, formerly the head gardener at Cloudehill in Olinda, but now a garden tour guide and he works a couple of days a week at one of the gardens we visited.
Our first stop was in Monbulk, with a flower grower and also a champion of sustainability, Joost Baker. He walked us around his 6 acre property, sharing stories about the work he did, even of the building of their sustainable home, and how they lost 25 chickens in one day to a fox, hence the beautiful Maremma dog they now have living with them. My favourite part of his garden was the awesome display of Echiums - different colours but all borne from the one seedling. Over the years the bees have cross pollinated the plants and produced the different colours. They now fill a bank he once used to grow flowers on for shops in the city of Melbourne. I thought it a spectacular display.
The rest of his crops were grown in lines for easy access, dogwoods, proteas, and an array of all sorts of plants. An impressive vegetable garden out the back and a wall of his house lined with strawberries. Apparently his kids climb to the roof to pick and eat them during the summer season.
Wall of strawberries
Our next stop was Beechmont in Olinda. This is where we also had lunch. Beautiful gardens, formal parterres, hedges, a walled garden, I loved what they did with their old tennis court, which gives me ideas for ours - as we don't really use it. But that's another project that needs to wait.
The converted tennis court
Next we visited Culraven in Olinda, which is an Edna Walling designed 6 acre woodland garden. The owners have restored and enhanced the garden with the help of Aaron Condon. Edna Walling is my 'hero' and I love to learn about her, read what I can and look at gardens designed by her. We're fortunate in that there are several here in our area.
Silver birch trees and bluebells
Moss lined steps and pathway
The last garden is also a nursery - Gentiana Nursery. It wasn't officially open at the time but they opened up for us, and yes, we could purchase plants there too. Which I did!
The pathway outside Gentiana Nursery
Inside Gentiana's gardens - note the bonsais in the background
I bought a Hosta like this one and plan to put it in a stone pot at home - just need to find a nice pot now.
Finally we returned to Karwarra Nursery where they had drinks and nibbles for us. And, a surprise for me - a small birthday cake to celebrate my birthday. They all sang to me too which was a lovely end to the day. Tiring - the day went from 9.30 to 4.45pm and we spent little time on the bus - most of the time on our feet, but it was sooooooo worth it! I highly recommend you register for their newsletter to keep informed. Their next tours, I'm told, will be Spring 2018.
Native hibiscus with waratah in the background at Karwarra
I did take a lot more photos than I'm showing here but, hopefully, this will give you a taste for what I saw and hopefully you can experience this next year too. I'll probably go again! They do different gardens each tour, with only two the same, so you can choose which tour you want to experience.