Sunday 9 December 2012

Around Melbourne

Eucalyptus regnans towering over Otto Fauser's garden. Huge and fast growing, there is some evidence that individuals of this species once achieved heights of 130-150 m, making them the largest trees ever recorded. Alas, they were logged-out long-ago, but E. regnans remains dominant in the mountains of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania.

The clasic understorey accompaniment to E. regnans is Dicksonia antarctica:it is amazingly abundant.The Victorian forests are/have been the principal source for the tree ferns imported into Britain as 'logs'.

Otto Fauser's rock garden: Aquilegia alpina and Daboecia azorica are conspicuous.

The choice New Zealand alpine shrublet Leucogynes leontopodium.

Celmisia asteliifolia: a native Australian member of this antipodean genus, flourishing in Otto's garden.

I was invited to Australia to give a talk about snowdrops to the Alpine Garden Society Victorian Group, so my first port of call was Melbourne. Rather to my surprise - I hadn't thought about it - the Melbourne conurbation is vast, but members of thegroup were indefatigable in driving me around to see a diversity of gardens, nurseries and wild habitat. I am particularly grateful to the President, Di Barrie, for organising the whole affair and doing much of the driving, but I also had the great pleasure of staying with the doyen of Australian alpine gardeners, Otto Fauser, at his home in the Dandenong Hills east of the city, and I must thank everyone for their very generous hospitality. Visiting so many gardens gave me a fascinating insight into the diversity of plants Victorian gardeners can grow: the fabled draconian import restrictions seem not to pose too many problems. The result is a remarkable profusion of 'garden' plants, but in many ways I found it much more fascinating to see how Australian natives are used in the gardens.

A world-class traditional garden: Cloudehill, Olinda. Beautiful formality and great combinations, created over the past 20 years by Jeremy Francis and his team, on the site of a former nursery. These are the warm borders.

The cool borders at Cloudehill.

South African bulbs (Sparaxis, Ixia, Freesia) naturalised in a 'meadow', with Ranunculus repens. A fun variation on the theme. At Cloudehill.

I don't know if this effect is deliberate, but I found it ravishing. Bellis perennis and Pittosporum 'Irene Paterson' at Cloudehill.

Lilium lankongense in plantsman and nurseryman Stephen Ryan's garden, Mount Macedon.

Miscanthus 'Rubra' - a bit of fun at Stephen Ryan's.

Cantua buxifolia 'Tricolor' - a striking clone at Stephen Ryan's Dicksonia Nursery.

A small extent of Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. pauciflora grows on the top of Mount Macedon.

The extraordinary dark foliage of Eucalyptus cladocalyx 'Euc 78' sold as Vintage Red, at Kuranga Nursery.

Banksia ericifolia 'Little Eric': a superb selection. Much work is being done to select Australian natives that are able to give the ornamentals a real run for their money.

A display barrow at Kuranga Native Nursery, Mount Evelyn: making Aussie natives look really appealing.

A hybrid waratah, probably incorporating genes from several species of Telopea: every bit as attractive as the rhododendrons so abundantly grown in the Dandenongs and elsewhere round Melbourne. At Ferny Creek Horticultural Society.


  1. Beautiful post John. Looks like you had an amazing trip. Would love to see those big Euc's. One of the perks....hope all is well in Yorks.

    We are off to NZ in a couple of days. Shall hopefully have some nice images to post from there soon enough on my blog.

  2. Dear John.
    Lovely photos, beautiful scenery.
    Pleased you did have great days ´down under´.
    Best regards, Iris.

  3. Hello John
    We all envy you being in the southern hemisphere at this time. How wonderful to be invited to lecture in Australia!
    And fantastic too to be shown round by all the local experts-there is nothing like local knowledge about the best plants and gardens


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