I first visited Heronswood house and gardens, located at Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula, a few months back. Being a Sydneysider, I guess I (sort of) have a reason for taking so long to get myself there, but Melbourne people, you’ve got no excuse. Go! It’s a fabulous garden, overflowing with rare and interesting plants, and surrounding an incredible gothic revival house.
Heronswood was originally the holiday destination for Melbourne University’s first Professor of Law, William Hearn, who employed Edward La Trobe Bateman to design the house in 1866. Clive and Penny Blazey purchased Heronswood in 1983, raising their family there, while using the garden as a testing ground for new plant species and different heirloom varieties for the Diggers Club, the mail-order plant and seed service the pair launched in 1978. Nowadays this heritage listed two-hectare property is a living catalogue of the rare plants and heirloom seeds they have helped preserve over the last 40 years.
Clive and Penny began The Diggers Club with an aim to rescue the old varieties of vegetables that mainstream seed companies were removing from their lists. It was a small operation – based out of an old tin shed – but has since grown into Australia’s largest gardening club. It now has over 75,000 members, owns two showcase organic gardens, runs restaurants and nurseries and more. The club’s growth is testament to the Blazey’s integrity and commitment to promoting seed diversity, the availability of open-pollinated heirloom seeds, and organic gardening principles. It’s also a business founded on passion. ‘I’m obsessed with growing and living with plants,’ Clive tells me. ‘I suppose everyone has a vision of creating their own piece of paradise. Gardening connects you to biology, archaeology and the environment. It’s a fascinating pursuit.’
In 2011 the Blazey family gifted ownership of The Diggers Club business and the two family-owned historic properties, Heronswood and the Garden of St Erth in Blackwood, Victoria, to a charitable trust called the Diggers Garden Trust. ‘We wanted to ensure that the things that we’ve championed such as supporting the use of heirloom seeds and sustainable gardening methods and a strong voice against genetically modified and hybridised plants and seeds would continue,’ Clive says. ‘We also wanted to make certain that our two organically certified gardens would remain intact and always be open to the public. The only way to achieve this was to bequeath the properties and garden business to the Trust to be owned by a not-for-profit garden charity.’
March is the perfect time to visit Heronswood house and garden. Nurtured by a passionate team of green-thumbs, the garden is both vast and intimate, magical and educational, and has been recognised as one of Australia’s best. With beds overflowing with hardy late summer flowering perennial plants, succulents, and vegetables, it’s an incredible spot to while away a few hours and get inspired to create your own patch of paradise.
The Diggers Club is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018 with a range of festivals and events throughout the year, including at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show.
Entry to Heronswood gardens is free for Diggers Club members and children under 16, or $10 for others, For more information, see Diggers.com.au.
Heronswood Harvest Festival
105 Latrobe Parade, Dromana