Country Garden

Larry and Mickey Robertson · Glenmore House

Today our intrepid gardens columnist Georgina Reid of The Planthunter join us once again, with a truly enviable garden in Glenmore, NSW, just about an hour west of Sydney.

Glenmore House‘ is known to many garden enthusiasts.  This Victorian homestead and its rambling grounds was purchased by Larry and Mickey Robertson and their family in 1988. In the years that have passed since then, Mickey, an interior designer by trade, has established the most incredible gardens here.  Occasionally, they are opened up to the public for special events, and Mickey also runs kitchen gardening and cooking workshops.  (She also has a sweet blog, well worth checking out for a peek into busy garden life behind the scenes!).

Georgina Reid

The beautiful gardens at ‘Glenmore House‘ in rural NSW. Overshadowed by the huge boughs of a 170 year old peppercorn tree, a raised sandstone pond and a collection of pot plants frame the garden door.

Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) provide great textural interest in the garden. The Cardoon is closely related to the artichoke, but grown more for its foliage than its edible fruit. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgina Reid / The Planthunter.

Mickey says the hydrangeas at the end of the barn were ‘literally just dumped there’ after being dug up as a result of the house restorations. They enjoyed them so much that they have remained there….’their flowers herald the coming of summer and their russet tones last well into winter – what garden could be without them?’, she says. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) provide great textural interest in the garden. The Cardoon is closely related to the artichoke, but grown more for its foliage than its edible fruit. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

The arc lawn is shaded by the ancient pepper tree. The planting here is more Mediterranean in style, as the area is often in full sun. Grey foliage plants such as germander (Teucrium fruticans), yucca (Yucca spp.) and pineapple sage (Phloemis fruticosa) thrive in the hot, sunny conditions. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Overshadowed by the huge boughs of a 170 year old peppercorn tree, a raised sandstone pond and a collection of pot plants frame the garden door. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Border garden in early morning light. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Sweeping rural vistas create a strong sense of place within the garden, connecting it to its surrounding environment. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

The rural vernacular of Glenmore House is very much celebrated and retained, as indicated in the careful restoration of the farm buildings like the hayshed, and the use of typical timber fence and gates. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

The lush border planting cleverly conceals the pool fence. These beds have a soft English sensibility, but use tough perennial plants well suited to the Australian climate including stonecrop (Sedum spp), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and rock rose (Cistus spp.) to name a few.  Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Mickey in her garden! Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

A huge old pepper tree (Schinus molle) hangs over the road between the dairy and the vegetable garden. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

The door from the house to the garden is flanked by a pair of bay trees (Laurus nobilis). Symmetrical placement of pots provides a subtle sense of formality. Photo – Daniel Shipp, production – Georgian Reid / The Planthunter.

Georgina Reid
12th of January 2015

I’ve seen many gardens in my time – huge estates, tiny courtyards, modernist masterpieces and humble veggie patches. One quality I keep coming back to is connection. It doesn’t matter how grand or modest the garden, how much or little money is spent on it, or how beautifully designed it is or isn’t, the most important thing to me is the connection between it, the landscape it inhabits, and its owner. That’s what makes a great garden.

Mickey and Larry Robertson’s garden at Glenmore House is a great example of the power of connection, formed through many years of hard work, passion, and experimentation. The garden is SUCH a pleasure to spend time in. It’s impossible to describe fully, but visiting Glenmore House is like going to another (extremely beautiful, peaceful, and bucolic) planet. I want to move in!

The Robertsons bought the property in 1988,  and have lived here since the early 1990’s, with their two daughters Clementine and Bonnie. When they bought it the property consisted of a collection of ramshackle farm buildings dating from the mid 1800’s. The Victorian sandstone house, soon to be their home, was inhabited by a ragtag bunch of local wildlife, and the crumbling farm buildings including a dairy, barn, hayshed, stables and other outbuildings were in a near derelict state.

Many years were spent cleaning, clearing, building, and restoring the buildings one by one. The garden evolved alongside the buildings – once the house was restored, Mickey started on the garden surrounding it. As other buildings were worked on, the gardens around them grew as well.

Glenmore is a very romantic garden. While on the surface it appears quite structured, its evolution was very organic, growing over the years to embrace all of the restored buildings on the property, connecting them with a series of walkways, borders overflowing with loose, perennial plants, and hedges concealing and then revealing rural vistas. Mickey had no overarching plan for it, but rather responded to the site and the context, to create different spaces and connect the buildings to each other.

As well as providing a link between the various buildings at Glenmore House, the gardens have been carefully designed around the interior views from the home. Mickey says, ‘Coming from an interior design background, it’s very important to me that the interior links with the exterior. A lot of this garden has been organised from inside looking out. There is a great view from every single window in the house. That is very important to me.’

It’s clear that the garden is Mickey’s passion, albeit a rather unexpected one. She had always wanted a garden, but when she first moved here, she had very little gardening experience, and very different ideas of what the garden here might look like.

Though is has been a much greater challenge than perhaps originally anticipated, the end result is an exceptionally rich and beautiful garden overflowing with life, joy and passion. And as the garden has grown, so has Mickey.  ‘The things I turned my nose up at in my twenties have grown to become my greatest passion, and it continues to expand’ Mickey says. ‘Gardening is such a lovely journey. All plants now are riveting to me!’

Mickey’s garden is very much a part of her. The way she talks about it, and the intimate knowledge she has of each and every plant is testament to her intimate connection with this space.  ‘When you become part of the garden, it becomes a part of you’ she explains, philosophically. ‘It’s in the garden, and in the process of nurturing it, that you get back everything the garden has got to give. That’s what creates contentment.’

Glenmore House is truly an idyllic garden and such a pleasure to visit. It’s open occasionally, and Mickey also runs kitchen gardening and seasonal cooking workshops – check out the Glenmore House website for more info.

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