Dr Anne ValeA Yarra Valley trip with garden history

In mid March members of the Australian Garden History Society enjoyed a lovely day out in the Yarra Valley. It was good to see countryside less drought stressed than it has been in previous years. Our trip included two gardens open to the public. The National Trust historic farm ‘Gulf Station’ is always a delight to visit and the dedicated volunteers gave us an excellent description of the pioneer history. ‘Alwyn Gardens’ was a perfect spot for lunch.
This extensive garden is an inspiration demonstrating many design concepts. It is a wonderful example of passionate garden makers who love to experiment with
contemporary and traditional concepts.

Phillip Johnson-designed waterfall at Lubra Bend

Phillip Johnson-designed waterfall at Lubra Bend

Rosemary at Lubra BendOne of the advantages of belonging to the AGHS is that we get to visit private gardens and enjoy a personal tour and talk by the owner. At ‘Lubra Bend’, AGHS member and owner Rosemary Simpson shared her journey of overcoming imposed disruption of her paddocks, devastating bush fires and constructing a natural landscape complete with billabongs, dry creeks (in the summer) and stunning sculpture.

Rosemary explained how ‘Lubra Bend’, the property was originally taken up by newspaper proprietor David Syme in the 1860s. At that time it included all the land between Healesville and Yarra Glen. In the 1960s the Russell Stokes family purchased the property and established a wonderful Guilford Bell house with an extensive garden of oaks, elms camellias, magnolias and an extensive cypress hedge.

In 1999, Rosemary and her late husband Bob moved into this now mature landscape to embark on new challenge. In the following years they resurrected the croquet lawn, reinvigorated the orchard, created new paths and avenues and installed a swimming pool. They also planted many trees in conjunction with Melbourne Water. Rosemary also created a substantial vegetable garden using the ‘no dig’ method.

Water garden at Lubra Bend. Design Phillip Johnson

Water garden at Lubra Bend. Design Phillip Johnson

After Bob passed away in 2006 Rosemary engaged award winning landscape designer Philip Johnson to create a rock and water garden for the dry and barren entrance paddock. We experienced the result as we entered the property enjoying the wonderful contrast of dry garden set around rocks and ponds. The sound of falling water added to the experience as the last of the lotus flowers surrounded by dramatic seedpods. The planting was a mix of natives and exotic plants but all were drought tolerant.

Lotus seedpod

Johnson's 'Aztec steps'

Johnson’s ‘Aztec steps’

Johnson was contracted again in 2007 to extend the water way from the top pools down a cascade, through the camellia grove and on through to the wetlands. Further landscaping included a massive set of Aztec-style steps which enabled an easy transition down the steep slope. There is a further billabong along the descent as the water works its way to the river below.

Lubra Bend water garden. Design Phillip Johnson

Lubra Bend water garden. Design Phillip Johnson

Johnson describes his design as,

‘A sprawling wetlands which meander across the 300+ acre property, assisting with fire safety and home to an abundance of wildlife. Requiring no mains water, storm water management systems sustain the vast network of billabongs, where a habitat corridor has been created linking the property to the Yarra River. Hand selected boulders showcase Nature’s sculptural brilliance. The soul of the landscape is the lower billabong, which was transformed from an old disused tennis court. Stormwater runoff is captured here, with overflow going directly back into the Yarra River, bordering the site. Permeable winding gravels paths and stepping stones invite exploration and also aid water capture. The entire landscape was built working with existing soil from the site. Sustainable mulches are created from composted green waste. Considerable land contouring has been done to increase water capture, retention and enhance overall aesthetics’.

Johnson designed landscape at Lubra Bend

Johnson designed landscape at Lubra Bend

Landscape at Lubra Bend. Design Phillip Johnson

Landscape at Lubra Bend. Design Phillip Johnson

Pear sculpture at Lubra Bend

Pear sculpture at Lubra Bend

 

On Australia Day weekend 2009 Rosemary opened the garden for Open Gardens Australia. Ten days laters they were completely burnt out in the bushfires, but their neighbours fought all night and saved the three cottages, the garden and the house. Six years later it is hard to imagine that devastation, despite being the end of summer the dry garden and ponds at the entrance looked stunning. The display gardens and vegetable garden near the house had plenty of colour and vigour, large globes of quince hung from the trees in the orchard.

Quince

Quince

 

The paths that led down to the river were enticing and the planting sat very comfortably in the landscape. This landscape has been on my ‘wish list’ for quite some time and I certainly was not disappointed.

The garden is open strictly by appointment. For more info go to www.lubrabend.com.au to enquire about a garden visit email info@lubrabend.com.au

Ball sculpture at Lubra Bend

Ball sculpture at Lubra Bend

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Dr Anne Vale

About Dr Anne Vale

Dr Anne Vale is an author, historian, lecturer and garden photographer. Anne is the author of award winning Exceptional Australian Garden Makers (2014). The sequel, Influential Australian Garden People, which follows the influences of the next generation, is due to be published late 2016. Anne records and assesses gardens with history through her consulting practice Heriscapes. She has written garden guides and histories on significant Australian heritage gardens including Dalvui, Mawarra, Wombat Park and Burnley. She has contributed articles to the online directory on Australian Women Leaders, the Australian Garden History Society journal, Historic Gardens Review journal and the Royal Historical Society Remembering Melbourne (due late 2016).

2 thoughts on “A Yarra Valley trip with garden history

  1. Adriana Fraser on said:

    A bit late in catching up on your post Anne – very interesting and I love the wonderful ball sculpture – I must remember to visit these garden next time they are open.

  2. steven on said:

    Thanks Anne. What a treat it must have been to visit Lubra Bend. The photos look wonderful and I can only imagine what it must have been like to wander through the landscape. I must add it to my ‘wish list’ too.

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