I often work on Melbourne Cup day, stopping a few minutes before the actual race is run so that I can watch it on TV. This year though I had two good reasons to have most of the day off. Firstly, I was invited to lunch in a beautiful garden and secondly, the lunch was a fund raiser for a good cause. The garden is on a rural property, Orange Grove, nestled in the hills to the east of Perth and the owners Lynne and Denis McLeod not only hosted the lunch but also lovingly created the gardens which surround the house.
The roses throughout the garden are absolutely stunning – surely they rival the famous roses at Flemington where the Melbourne Cup is run. The clever way in which standardised Mathias Meilland roses have been closely planted in groups of four maximises the volume of the glorious red blossoms creating a vibrant red ribbon from the front verandah down the terraces to the edge of the garden, leading the eye out across the pasture to the bush on top of a distant hill.
The garden design theory of creating different rooms in the garden has been well applied here so that each room has its own character and planting scheme, although most feature roses of some description. Some rooms, like the front terrace garden take advantage of the borrowed landscape while others, like the Sanctuary Garden are inward looking.
The sunken Sanctuary Garden is best viewed from the side verandah or from the white timber pergola which runs the length of one side of the room. The formal, raised garden beds are laid out around a central pond. In this garden standard Iceberg roses take centre stage surrounded by cheerful purple and yellow pansies. Equally bright and cheerful are the standard Gold Bunny roses that back the garden. At the base of the pergola is a hedge of Rosendorf Sparrieshoop forming a trio of pink flowering roses with the Pinkie and Pierre de Ronsard roses clambering over the pergola.
Golden Holdstein roses form the basis for a yellow garden, combined with yellow Brugmansia and beautifully contrasted with purple foliaged plants. A number of other roses are sprinkled throughout the gardens, combined with various perennials and annuals and gorgeous clematis with their huge flowers.
The predominant feel of the garden is strongly Mediterranean with plants selected to suit our climate, including standardised wisterias which had just finished flowering, irises of every colour and hue and one of my favourites Acanthus mollis, the oyster plant. Reminiscent of the drifts that pepper the slopes near the Colosseum in Rome they aren’t confined to garden beds but loosely line the driveway with their lobed lush dark green leaves and spires of mauve and white flowers.
Growing in a pot with lobelia is an intriguing little plant with tubular purplish flowers and bluish green leaves, tinged with the same purple colour. I have never seen this plant before but Lynne told me that it is a Cerinthe major ‘Blue Kiwi’ which she grew from seed.
Not all of the planting is really hardy though – I think all true gardeners have an urge to grow things which are slightly more difficult to cultivate. In our climate rhododendrons require that bit of extra attention if they are to survive our hot summers. The McLeod’s have taken up the challenge and combined them with azaleas under the canopy of a huge camphor laurel tree where they seem to be thriving.
The flowers and greenery aren’t the only attraction in the garden. There are many sculptures strategically placed throughout – some are modern and abstract while others are more traditional. Bronze beauties adorn many of the gardens – sometimes playful, sometimes pensive – forming a thread of continuity throughout the garden rooms.
Local laterite rocks have been crafted by a local stonemason to create interesting feature and retaining walls which greatly enhance the sense of place. A local artisan has also created some gorgeous decorative iron pieces to embellish the garden.
Red bricks, gravel, limestone pavers and recycled timber have been interestingly combined to form a variety of different path patterns which link all of the gardens together. These give the gardens a less formal feel.
Lynne and Denis have created an idyllic retreat away from busy city life where their love of art and gardening is reflected in the design of the garden. I have been spoilt for all future Melbourne Cup days – to be able to wander through a beautiful garden on a glorious sunny day with delightful music floating on the breeze, enjoying a delicious lunch in great company will be very hard to beat. To top it all off the horse I drew in the sweep, Green Moon, came first.