It’s a glorious winter morning, strong light through the garden and just a little mist over the valley. As often happens in the cooler months Melbourne is under thick fog today while we’re enjoying blue skies. Dew was catching the light everywhere in the garden as I strolled and coming back through the shop I overheard someone asking “Is there anything worth seeing this morning?” I went off shaking my head.
For ages now if anyone asks “When’s the best time to come?” I’ll say “June! It’s all architecture of course, but we have gone to lot of trouble with our architecture! Then come later for snowdrops, September for bluebells, October’s good for peonies and several times in the summer.” It’s a joke, but only up to a point. Apart from the garden’s bones, there are winter plants to see: the weeping apricot, flowering from May to August with perfumed double pink blossoms, and the semi-evergreen Liquidamber formosana, with madder-crimson leaves holding through winter. Beeches are particularly good in June and one of the loveliest of trees without foliage. Clipped, they hold their dry leaves through the winter and our coppery-brown beech hedges are a vital structural element of the winter garden. Many of the maples are worth inspection. Several coral-bark maples, Acer pal. Sango Kaku, are grown for their blood-red winter twigs, one tree beside Seasons Restaurant. A nearby clump of Cornus alba Westonbirt (a good form of the red-stem dogwood) echoes the theme.
Cornus alba Westonbirt
Artwork is at its best against a winter garden. Leopoldine Mimovich’s Seasons piece is very apposite in its spot at the end of the beech walk and nearby a piece by Ian Marr is also great fun. Ian borrowed a line from Hamilton Finlay (of Little Sparta in Scotland) for one side: ‘Mower is less’ (makes sense beside a meadow don’t you think?). On the rear there’s ‘Strictly no painting ‘en plein air’ (due to the mess). So, two silly jokes! However both are beautifully carved into Sydney sandstone and the piece looks handsomely monolithic on its brick plinth.
Thinking of art work, a few days back Valerie and I went to the opening of Criss Cannings latest show at the Moss Green Gallery in Armadale. Simply stunning! Very even and very, very strong. Some of the best work she has done.
Hope to see everyone over the next little while and never mind the weather. The garden’s much better in mist and rain. What are winters for if not to enjoy? Just dress for the occasion! One can always thaw out in Seasons Restaurant. In fact Seasons is staying open through June this year. Ring if you’re planning lunch mind you, they’re always busy.
See you in the garden – Jeremy Francis