I’ve always been obsessed with gardens, and in particular sprawling country gardens. I grew up in Vermont in Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs. We had access to a small farm next door where I had a horse, goats and a large vegetable garden.
After completing my Bachelor of applied Science in Horticulture at Melbourne University, I opened a nursery in Toorak and started taking on commissions to design gardens. Three decades on, I’ve authored eight books and I’ve got a team of 15 wonderful employees working out of our warehouse in Cremorne, Melbourne. Together we’ve been able to create thousands of special gardens for friends and clients.
My first home of my own was just off Greville Street in Prahran. It was very urban, but luckily had a large courtyard that I made into a small green oasis. I was able to garden in a small way, but it was never enough. I craved a large country garden in which I could garden and design on a large scale, hence my move to an old school house ‘St Ambrose Farm’ on two-acres in Woodend, an hour’s drive north west of Melbourne. It was a 120-year-old weatherboard home. It had character, but was totally unfriendly to human beings seeking heat in the cold winters of Woodend! I needed to expand the garden so looked for a property that was larger, more rural and had a good source of water… and then I found it!
For the past 11 years I’ve lived at Stonefields, a 100-acre property in Denver, just north-east of Daylesford. The climate here is perfect for me: mild summers with cool nights and freezing cold winters with some snow and frosts. I crave this kind of cool climate as it’s better for gardens, and there’s also nothing better than an open fire and a bottle of good red wine! The region is abundant with amazing restaurants, local produce and wineries… I can’t think of another area of Australia blessed in this way.
I recommend people visit our area for a great concentration of highly regarded food experiences, amazing accommodation, well-preserved gold fields towns blessed with wonderful architecture, great Botanical gardens and, of course, the lovely mild to cool weather.
Around this time of year, visit many of the restaurants with roaring fires and enjoy local wines. Then by Spring, there are lots of spring bulbs and blossoms appearing in the beautiful parks and many open gardens to tour. Summer is a great time for walks through the national parks and to see Trentham Falls, and in Autumn the tree colours are so incredibly intensified, thanks to our cool weather.