Phillip WithersVisiting Cloudehill garden in autumn

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.

Cloudehill garden in autumn

Cloudehill garden in autumn


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.


The warm borders at Cloudehill

The warm borders at Cloudehill


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.


Cloudehill in autumn3


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.


Cloudehill in autumn2


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’.


Cloudehill in autumn7

Shrub borders at Cloudehill


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.

Cloudehill in autumn

Shrub borders

Shrub borders

The beech walk

The beech walk


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.


Cloudehill in autumn11


Further on there’s a seating lookout which makes a great place to rest and enjoy the outlook of the gardens.


Cloudehill in autumn13

Cloudehill in autumn6


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…


Cloudehill in autumn5


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Phillip Withers

About Phillip Withers

Phillip started his design through more art based development studying a Diploma in Arts at RMIT. He was then drawn to garden design through garden maintenance and construction, studying a Diploma in Landscape Design and Sustainability at Swinburne University. He started Phillip Withers Landscape Design and has been lucky enough to create 3 show gardens in different forms, from achievable, to student, to professional. He has also taught Computer Aided Design with Kangan Institute and now Swinburne University. Phil is also a keen traveller and believes that it is the key to keeping design interesting…

2 thoughts on “Visiting Cloudehill garden in autumn

  1. Loved your description of this stunning garden, Phillip. The rich tapestry of colour in the warm borders was fantastic and made me wish that I could just wander up to Cloudehill too.

  2. Thanks Philip for reminding me of this lovely garden. I thoroughly enjoy Cloudehill but I haven’t visited it for a long time – it is actually one of my favourites! With all that it has to offer I think it is a garden worthy of regular visits throughout the year to see its many seasons. Your photos and your article reminded me that with gardens like this there are no real “bad times” to visit as there are treasures to see throughout the year!

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