I don’t know why gardens have such an emotional pull. Maybe it is the picture-perfection achieved by some, or the escape from reality for the garden enthusiast working on their patch of green. Or could it be the spiritual connection we all feel in some way when surrounded by nature in all of its intended beauty? Whatever the answer, when Dandenong Ranges Tourism Board announced the Secret Gardens of the Dandenong Ranges festival, Melbourne garden lovers wasted no time booking their ticket to glimpse the private masterpieces often coveted through gates and fences. It was with pleasure that I accepted the invitation to follow the tour and breathe in the beauty of the gardens and enthusiasm of the ticket holders.
A full day of properties, lunch and species clarification was in store. We met at the little-known Karwarra Australian Plant Garden — a beautiful example of how natives can work together to evoke wonder and impress the eye. After a quick coffee, sweet treats and introduction to the hard working team and property owners of the festival, we were bused to our first stop.
Winter Rose, Olinda
I must admit this first stop stole my heart! Entering the front gate, you are welcomed by a carpet of moss and lead to the studio by mosaic leaves. The newly renovated studio is the perfect place for a gathering of all sorts. Wandering through the well-established garden to the raspy tones of Eddie Wasbutzki not a question was left unanswered. The combined knowledge of both guides on all things horticulture ensured the group walked away brimming with information about the garden’s history and features.
This valley ranges getaway property was so well appointed that I wanted to book a night there and then. The house frames the garden beautifully with large windows and balconies. A beautiful start to the tour.
This garden was a delight to wander through. I must admit I was on a strict time schedule and sped my way through, missing out on the tour from the owner. Boasting a vegetable patch, alfresco dining area, pool and fire pit, the garden surrounding these focal points is well planned and works in harmony with the lay of the land.
It’s amazing how two properties sharing a boundary can vary so greatly. Woodlands is a garden that mixes both structure and natural elements. Working wisteria, hedging and paving in with the forestry surrounding the property — this is a garden for the naturalist.
Taking a break for a supplied lunch before heading to two more properties, I had to depart the group for the real world. Driving down the mountain, I was struck by the diversity in the gardens, the knowledge of the guides and the joy of those touring the mysterious Dandenong Ranges. The most remarkable aspect of the day was the willingness of so many locals to open their gates to welcome garden lovers in. This is a town renowned for privacy, collaborating with Dandenong Ranges Tourism Board and Yarra Ranges Tourism to shine a light on the beauty behind the hedge. This is a festival for all who appreciate beauty, want to know more about thriving species in a cool climate or those who are simply curious, like me. With talk of an Autumn festival next year, this is a festival to keep tabs on. For more information click here.