The Winter Garden
Cyclamens nose their way into the thin sunshine, hellebors produce their sombre blooms out of fallen leaves and the silver catkins of the Salix acutifolia Blue Streak etch moving patterns across the winter sky. The beech hedges hang tightly to their warm copper dry leaves; only the occasional rustle with the wintry air. There may even be occasional snow flakes drifting through the garden.
The first hint of spring can be seen in the blooming of the majestic grandis rhododendrons, their great trusses of creamy flowers concealing purplish black throats. Our witch hazel collection is also flowering in yellows and lemons and rusty pinks. However, Cloudehill is largely still in winter dress. The air is brisk and the ridge line subject to dramatic cloud effects, a glorious time for strolling with mist swirling through the bare trees and leaves crackling underfoot.
Inky blue grape hyacinths commence their flowering in their tens of thousands across the spring meadow accompanied by golden narcissus. The big cambellii magnolias throw open their huge and elegant blooms in shades of white and cyclamen pink, crimson purple and soft grape. Our colossal Magnolia denudata flowers with thousands of milk white goblets, and the aboreum rhododendrons are alight in soft pinks and blood reds.
The Spring Garden
Bluebells take the baton from the grape hyacinths in the meadows, their haze of mid blue interspersed with hosts of daffodils. Maples leaf out in clouds of brilliant colour and the early hybrid rhododendrons announce themselves with bugle calls of blossom.
Japanese tree peonies present their sumptuous blooms while lilacs flower in the shrub walk. Soft coppery pink leaves clothe the beech trees, the spring sunshine breaking through their part translucent foliage to the massed bluebells below. Rhododendrons continue with their hue and cry and and during this month we stage our big Diggers Garden Festival weekend.
The Melbourne Cup weekend is generally the best time to enjoy the flowering of our lutea hybrid tree peony collection; these produce sculptured bowls of lemon and ochre, yellow and apricot, wine and flame crimson. The late flowering rhododendrons are perhaps the most spectacular. These announce themselves like dowager princesses last to the ball while little scotch briar roses cover themselves with tiny soft blooms.
The Summer Garden
The early season perennials in the herbaceous borders have filled in and give a very fresh, silvery look with an interweaving tapestry of colour. The tulip tree is just finishing its flowering while the Chinese dogwoods and the Japanese silver bell commence theirs. Handsome Christmas trees are on offer in the nursery.
Newly clipped hedges make for astonishing architectual effects, providing tight, crisp green geometry amidst the over-flowing luxurience of summer. The herbaceous borders are at their mid-season height now and especially glorious in soft eveing light for those attending the summer twilight event series that Cloudehill is famous for. Check the program. Invite your friends.
The later perennials and the ornamental grasses are now in full cry and the gardens in general summer floraison. Lyrebird still call from the Mountain Ash, though not so frequently now, while iced teas and summer puddings are the order of the day in Seasons at Cloudehill.
The Autumn Garden
The perennial borders are still very full for the first weeks of March, then soften and open to 'autumn effects'. Hints of cooler weather are in the air and there's a big push in the garden preparing for the annual Melbourne international Flower and Garden Show and lots of interstate garden enthusiasts visiting.
The big ornamental grasses are at their finest right now, all beiges and tawny crimsons, while the weeping maples turn to the colour of the setting sun. The huge Enkianthus perulatus by the summer house sink into soft purple, then erupt to a slow burning crimson, the temple pool fills with lemon and pink leaves.
Beeches throughout the gardens fill with russet and gold and the last of the maples flush silk pink and crimson. The summer's green bleeds away from the borders, the last of the salvias are tattered wands of cobalt and pink waving amongst grey lemons and tawny browns; we contemplate scything all to the ground.