With some beautiful warm weather in Melbourne in mid May, I decided to wander up to the Mount Dandenong area to take in the breathtaking ‘Cloudehill’ garden in all its late autumn glory. Many had warned me that it wasn’t such a good season up the hill with the indifferent weather patterns we’d had but I feel that it’s really nice to see some leaf colours mixed in with the emerging interest of the architectural elements that form as the bare branches come out to greet us.
These gardens have such a nice mix and I love to see the use of conifers, the large deciduous trees, the shrub borders and even the grasses and renowned ferns that fit so well into the sweeping hills and lowlands, with all the juicy mountain soil and rain to feed off.
I started by walking through probably my favourite area of the gardens ‘the warm borders’. I just find the mix of colours, shapes and warm tones for which it’s known so interesting and inspiring. My opinion is that throughout this section of the garden it almost feels messy, which I feel a garden should be in some manner, especially at the change of seasons when the falling leaves are left to create patterns amongst the plants. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would enjoy roaming through the neighbours garden to play hide and seek.
Okay so I have jumped off on a tangent, But it’s really about the patterns of colour that shine through – in the Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, Cotinus coggygria, Phormium tenax ‘Atropurpureum’ and Parthenocissus tricuspidata that create these warm, red hues. Added to that, the structure of the Ilex (a real key plant in this garden I feel) and the burnt tones and sway of the Miscanthus sinensis grasses really give beauty at this time of year.
On the ground you find the late bud of the mixed Arctotis daisies, various Euphorbia and even the dried out sedum heads which I feel help to create the late season texture. The surrounding xCupressocyparis leylandii conifers give us just enough of a surface to rest our eyes on to hold everything together like a picture. The best way to describe this section of the garden is to say it feels like organised chaos, though I don’t mean this in a bad way. I would rather recognise this as a garden with ‘character’.
The next space I entered which I grew very fond of was the ‘shrub borders’. It was also showing its late autumn tones and mix of interesting shapes and textures. Here you’ll find Ilex ‘Aurea Marginata’ as a welcoming accent in the form of a topiary pruning, the gorgeous tones of Berberis and Hydrangea quercifolia along with highlights such as the magnificent Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond’ pillar, and sculptural shapes such as the underused Agave, Echium candicans and Cortaderria selloana mixed with evergreen bushes such as Hebe ‘Inspiration’ and Artemisia and winter rose. Here we get a glimpse of fuller texture and colour changes in the thicker borders, which are quiet interesting in their own right.
One more lower section of the garden I truly enjoyed, wandering down the slope towards the ferns that dazzle in the lowlands, was the ‘Beech Walk’. Here the beech trees stand tall through the garden to create a journey that one really has to witness. Their skeletal figures created shadows and a sense of drama as I wandered over towards what felt to me like the cliffs of a distant beach, with the wind flowing through the Miscanthus grasslands.
Further on there’s a seating lookout which makes a great place to rest and enjoy the outlook of the gardens.
It’s a magnificent walk down through the gardens, which is topped off with the view from the top of the stairs – as you can see in many photos of this garden, looking back down through the sculptured conifers and further down towards the lawn area and the warm hues in the treeline beyond. So if you’re up for a journey and want to be inspired going into winter, I suggest you go take a look…