As some readers may know, I spent the first 18 years of my life living at Blaxland in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The area still holds a special attraction to me and I enjoy visiting when I can. Saturday saw me heading up there for the 33rd Hazelbrook-Woodford Garden Festival, run by the Hazelbrook Public School P & C. Though not as well known as the Leura Gardens Festival, it is always well worth a trip. For the first time, this year's event includes some gardens in the nearby township of Linden.
As I don't have much of a spring display myself, I love seeing other people's gardens at this time of year, and the mountains gardens have a charm all of their own. Gardeners in this area are able to grow many of the cool-climate beauties that make us Sydneysiders weep, but I hope I am now sufficiently evolved as a gardener to be able simply to enjoy these gorgeous plants rather than fester with jealousy about being unable to have them in my own plot.
This year as usual there are some classic mountains gardens to see, awash with superb azaleas, maples, rhododendrons, Pieris, may bush and Camellia, underplanted with stunning drifts of bluebells, forget-me-nots, Freesia, Ajuga and nodding hellebores. In Chiltern garden at Hazelbrook, the exquisite, dainty pink flowers of a mature Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' tree (pictured above) are just opening, framing the delightful wooden home that is surrounded by a serene and beautiful cottage garden full of treasures. Like most of the open gardens, it has stunning views across the Blue Mountains bushland, providing a wonderful backdrop.
The historic property of Banool in Linden is set out as a series of rooms, with immaculate lilly pilly and Rhaphiolepis hedges. One of the highlights is a long pergola smothered in Wisteria in full bloom, underplanted with massed Clivia. Mature deciduous trees are just coming into leaf, with their pristine new foliage.
Nearby is Aldebaran garden, surrounding a stylish 1920s Californian bungalow painted crisp white and blue. The current owners have created an amazing garden at the back of the house using low-maintenance xerophytic plants to suit the dry, sandy conditions. Plantings include Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, agaves, yuccas, aloes and many smaller succulents and Pelargonium specimens. The dramatic forms of the larger plants are placed to make a very striking and artistic arrangement, with smaller plants providing contrast. Mediterranean shrubs such as Cistus soften the strong outlines of the succulents, and a formal hedge provides a framework to the feature plants. Only recycled rainwater is used for irrigation of the garden.
Just down the road is Totoro, an informal cottage garden with a truly charming melange of climbing roses, flowers, herbs, medicinal plants and edibles grown in a series of terraced beds down a slope. All the plants are growing luxuriantly, and intermingling in a relaxed way. Fruit trees provide height, and climbers such as passionfruit clothe fences. Everywhere one looks, there are quirky features, mainly using recycled objects, such as the old toaster made into a planter, pictured above!
The roof (pictured at left) of the mud-brick house is a highlight: it is covered in succulent plants, which look quite spectacular. Unusual sculptures can be spied amidst the foliage, inspired by film and television shows, giving a great sense of fun to the garden. Low woven 'hurdles' made of sticks and long stems of climbers from the garden edge the beds, providing a delightful rustic look. Insects and wildlife are actively encouraged to visit the garden, with plants being chosen to appeal to bees and honeyeater birds. Various species of frogs have made the pond their home. It is the sort of garden where one could imagine oneself pottering to one's heart's desire.
There are seven gardens in all to see (sadly there wasn't time for me to see them all that day). At the Hazelbrook Public School, there is a plant stall and a café, and an exhibition of the schoolchildren's artwork. Plants have been propagated from local gardens for sale, and on Saturday, my companion and I were most fortunate to meet fuchsia guru Barbara Cooper at the plant stall. Amongst other plants, there is a huge array of Fuchsia plants for sale, many propagated from Barbara's garden, including lots of unusual varieties.
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This intriguing epiphytic plant is in bloom now.
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As one gets older, there is the need to rethink aspects of one's garden.
Painting with coleus
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Coleus can make wonderful pictures in the garden.
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Tough and undemanding plants from my parents' garden are favourites in my own.
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Earlier this year, I visited Callan Park in Sydney's inner west.