Yesterday, with plans ditched for the day, we spontaneously took a drive with the littlies up to Crookwell to potter around some gardens in the Crookwell Garden Festival.
Open gardens are my jam! Seeing what other people have planted, how they have designed their spaces, and what a bit of patience (like, hmmm, 50 years of patience) might mean in our garden. Crookwell is part of the southern tablelands of NSW so it has a very similar climate to us. We only visited a few gardens, but the inspiration was absolutely worth the drive.
Of the gardens that we saw, two were absolute standouts: an Edna Walling-designed garden 'Kiloren', and a garden just outside of Crookwell called 'Bowood'. Both have elements that we are super keen to incorporate into our garden. My instinct is definitely toward Edna Walling-style gardens, with their free-flowing curving beds that are filled to the brim with perennials and self-seeded annuals, grass "pathways" that lead you around to the hidden parts of the garden, minimal pruning and views of the garden from every window of the house. Spending time in one of her gardens and chatting to the people who actually live there was just kind of incredible. 'Bowood' is a much more structured garden but not so formal that I can't imagine elements of it working here. It was actually probably the garden that most made my heart skip a beat (yup, definitely a garden geek!).
So, photos! Lots and lots of photos! I do apologise that there are so many - this is a very limited selection of the hundreds that I took yesterday (that don't feature my two children... be grateful that you aren't being forced to sit through all of those!).
As I mentioned above, 'Kiloren' was designed by Edna Walling, 64 years ago when the 1.3 hectare garden was just an exposed and empty hillside. The garden has one of the Walling classic features of stone walls delineating the different parts of the garden and forcing the visitor to explore all of its nooks and crannies. It is filled with amazing trees that have been allowed to grow quite freely with minimal pruning, so they have taken unusual shapes and form their own living structures (my daughter loved walking under the 'bridge' of a tree branch). The garden is filled with birches, amelanchiers, viburnums, aspens, crabapples, lilacs and hawthorns. Underplantings included heaps of tulips, lily-of-the-valley, hellebores, aquilegias and forget-me-nots.
The stone house at Bowood dates back from around 1850 and is absolutely stunning in and of itself. We entered via the turning circle at the front of the house, the centre of which is filled with a grove of golden and claret ash trees, and is bordered by a fairly young birch grove. The front verandah of the house has a beautiful clematis and is flanked by perfectly-planted wide garden beds.
Walking through two camellia hedges leads to the more formal potager garden with its perfect symmetry and super stylish obelisks. As much as I loved this part of the garden it is not the sort of the thing that we will include in ours. Our 'potager' (The Coopermarket) is never going to be this formal or tidy but that's okay - it's our functional and productive part of the garden, and I can live with a bit of chaos! One thing that I would definitely like to steal from this garden is those espaliered fruit trees - the apple and pear! My goodness, they were stunning in full flower yesterday.
Anyhoo, I'll leave it at that. Oh, and if you're in your mid to late-thirties and want to feel really really young, go along to an open garden weekend. Honestly, you will be the biggest novelty going round ;)