This Remarkable 8-Acre Garden Has Been A Labour Of Love For 40 Years

Imagine pulling up to a driveway lined with 80 towering elm trees, to find 8 acres of enchanting gardens, featuring its own dam, a mix of wild natives, rose bushes and more than 4000 trees.

This might sound like the grounds of a French chateau, or perhaps a section of Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens, but Cloverdale is part of a family home and working farm in Werribee, in Melbourne’s west.

The spectacular garden has been a labour of love for Connie and Julian Menegazzo, who bought property in 1981 and have since transformed the endless paddocks into an abundant and romantic landscape – which is still evolving today!

Christina Karras

Step inside Connie and Julian Menegazzo botanical wonderland on their working farm, called Cloverdale. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The couple bought the property in the early 80s, and have been working on the gardens ever since. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

There’s many variations of roses throughout, including the Rosa ‘KORbin’  or iceberg roses. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Vibrant hydrangeas bring pops of colour to the lush green landscape. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

A winding garden path that looks like something from a fairytale, or the Royal Botanic Gardens! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Connie says there’s a less formal , 4-acre garden around the house, in addition to a ‘forest’ by the dam, a sheep paddock turned lush garden, and a diverse planting scheme where the home’s tennis court was once planned for – but never eventuated. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Wyndham Vale’s Lollypop Creek runs to the property’s dam, which has been used as the main watering source for the gardens. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Alstroemeria aurea (Hybrid Tea Roses) sprout among textured grasses and other flowering plants. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘The view from the start of the driveway looking toward the house has changed significantly, the forest acts as a loving arm protecting the garden from the northerly winds.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The dam also attracts plenty of wildlife and birds in the warmer months. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The garden’s Alstroemeria aurea (Peruvian lilies) in bloom. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

An abundant bush of Weeping Super Excelsa Roses. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Winding garden paths lead through the lush landscaping. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Bonica 82 roses. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Picture-perfect Mudgee Red roses. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘I have memories of our childhood garden that was full of roses that my grandfather loved and tended. This is where my love of Roses began and the inspiration of what you see now,’ Connie says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘There is colour in the garden most of the year,’ Connie says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Her favourite time to be in the garden is in the morning, ‘when everything is waking up’, and after dinner for the incredible evening light. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The avenue of Golden Elms was planted in 1984, creating a dreamy canopy that welcomes visitors to the property! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Cloverdale has featured in Open Gardens Victoria, allowing the public to visit the remarkable labour of love for themselves! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Christina Karras
23rd of December 2022

Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe Connie and Julian Menegazzo bought Cloverdale when it was ‘just a paddock’ for growing wheat, barley, and canola on their working farm.

‘It was a very windy site with only two red gums by the dam,’ Connie says. ‘I wanted to create a welcoming garden that felt like home, with lots of green with flowers, trees and lawns.’

Fast forward more than 40 years of hard work (and more than 4000 trees planted!) and this has become one of Melbourne’s most elaborate private gardens, nestled into the city’s outer western suburbs. The Werribee garden has evolved ‘randomly’ over the years, with Connie often returning from visits to other gardens with new ideas that sometimes worked – and sometimes didn’t.

A year after building their home on the block in 1983, the couple had an avenue of 80 Ulmus glabra ‘Lutescens’  (Golden Wych Elms) planted along the driveway. They are one of the most enchanting parts of the property, but Connie says establishing them in the early years ‘was a struggle’ because they lacked protection from the wind.

‘Now they are very happy and since extending the dam in 2004 we no longer need to water them as their clever roots reach the water,’ she adds.

The local Lollypop Creek flows through to their dam, which beautifully reflects the textured ‘forest’ of natives they planted along the banks, featuring Poa Labillardieri (tussock-grass), Lomandra Longiflora (basket grass), Acacia Baileyana Prostrate (Wattle), and Clematis Artistata (Australian clematis).

‘The garden, dam and forest attract many birds that are a joy to watch,’ Connie says. ‘We also play host to the odd lone pelican and often a few swans, both birds paddle majestically around the house.’

By 2014, another 200 native trees and shrubs were planted in what the couple call the ‘sheep paddock’, along with colourful flowers such as claret ash, jonquils daffodils and blue bell bulbs. Many plants, including the Salix babylonica (weeping willows), originated from cuttings Connie sourced from friend’s gardens, and ‘seeing them brings back many happy memories of times gone by’.

There are a few native frangipanis scattered throughout – and ‘their scent is just magic’ – along with the fragrance of the blooming rose bushes around winding garden paths and a romantic arbour. There’s too many plant variations to name, but each space weaves beautifully into the next almost as if it was an expansive park.

Connie says she spends anywhere between 6 to 20 hours (or more!) in the garden every week. And besides hiring someone to plant the elm trees, she and Julian have done the rest themselves with occasional help from family.

‘There is no rhyme or reason to our garden,’ she adds. ‘The plant choices are mine and I just planted the things that I liked and that would survive! As you walk around there is something different around every corner.’

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