I had always assumed Australia was a hot dry arid place with killer snakes hanging out of every tree! Not that I’d ever spent significant time in Australia to form these opinions for myself, aside from a bit of urban wandering in Sydney. Most of my ideas came from what I’d seen on the telly and encouraged by the fact that the country is host to most of the killer creatures of the earth!
Surely they must all lurk about the place just waiting to take a bite out of unsuspecting tourists – especially ones who come from countries where there is no such thing as a snake!
This misinformation has been put to rest for once and for all. Australia is a lovely place and the only snake I saw was a rubber one hanging in the rafters in a café in the middle of a beautiful garden with purpose of keeping birds out of the café. Although the owner did say there was a Red Bellied Black snake basking on the deck the day before… I really shouldn’t have googled him… and if you have a weak disposition I wouldn’t recommend you do it either!
I had been invited by the lovely Judy Horton from Yates – the oldest and most respected seed company in Australia and New Zealand, to spend the weekend exploring gardens in the Blue Mountains. This invitation prompted a couple of shopping trips. The first one I raced out and bought out a load of cute summer outfits as Australia is supposed to be hot right?! Then I checked the weather forecast for where we were heading and it was colder than here at home! Around 15°C with overnight lows of 5°C. This meant another shopping trip for warm clothes!
With bags packed with warm and fluffy clothes and an empty memory card in my camera and my passport (with a rather unflattering photo) in hand, I jumped on a plane and flew over the ditch.
Judy collected me from the airport in Sydney and we headed for the Blue Mountains. Apparently on a sunny clear day the view of the mountains is a hazy blue from the haze given off by the eucalyptus trees that grow there abundantly. However in the deepening dusk of an autumnal evening the mountains were shrouded in cloud and when we arrived at our first destination in Katoomba it was dark. We wrapped up warmly and headed off have dinner and a lovely historic restaurant where the food was just amazing. I had a soft shelled crab, which I have only ever seen on telly and it was delicious!
In the morning – with my body clock still running two hours ahead, I woke up quite early, and so we went for a brisk walk to Echo Point look out to see the Three Sisters rock formation and vast amazing vista that is the Blue Mountains spread out beneath us. As a first view of the scenery after arriving in the dark, this was breath taking!
After breakfast we headed for a bit of an adventure and went on the world’s steepest railway to get down to the bush floor, where coal was once mined. These days it is a lovely walk through the forest. I didn’t see any snakes as it was a little chilly for that. Although I did see some Lyre birds who run quickly through the bush floor and look a little like Velociraptors.
It was such a whirlwind tour. Next we went to visit an open garden where this lovely couple had filled the front yard with incredible roses and the back yard was a productive edible endeavor where they were supplying local restaurants and markets with salad leaves like mizuna. Then it was time for the main event.
Mayfield garden. I have included the link >HERE< because my witterings would never do it justice. It is an amazing landscaped garden on 36 acres that bring a slice of English elegance to the heart of the Australian bush. The autumn colours were a sight to behold amongst the green of the surrounding countryside. This green in itself also came as a bit of a shock to me! The landscape was so lush and vibrant and was nothing like I expected. Aside from all the Eucalyptus trees, could easily have been a slice of New Zealand in the middle of this supposed dry land.
But back to the colours – the red, yellows and oranges seemed to glow set against the backdrop of a cloudy autumn sky. It all seemed alive and it infused an energy into your step as you wanted to look to the next garden, go over the next bridge, around the next corner or over the next hill to see what gardening wonder waited to be seen. In its entirety it was quite extravagant, but there were elements that could easily be tried at home… I have taken loads of photos and will be handing Hubby the Un-Gardener a shovel in the very near future. There was this amazing walled veggie garden with espalier fruit trees all around. I would love a walled garden, however I don’t think I am ready to concede on a final boundary to my ever expanding patch!
After we had seen all there was to see we visited an expert in Native Australian bees for a cup of coffee, and then we headed to our nights’ accommodation at St Mounts, which I have also included a link >HERE< as it is the most delightful Victorian hotel and we were truly spoilt there. The food in the restaurant attached was amazing and for dessert I had the most incredibly delicious beetroot ice cream. This was MY kind of restaurant!
Weary from the day before and still waking up at 4am each morning, as at home it would have been a perfectly acceptable 6am, I packed up my bags for the last time and as we started off down the mountains we stopped at Mt Wilson where apparently the only reason to live there is to garden, as the soil is amazing, and the community is made up of hundred year old second homes with the most incredible park like grounds long since established to resemble the English gardens the wealthy early settlers yearned for. This in itself was an incredible experience as we were welcomed not only into the garden but the home at Bisley. The Thompsons are such wonderful and generous people.
Our final stop was a café garden where a couple of busloads of tour groups were in the process of coming and going. It was also a lovely garden filled with the ringing sound of bell birds and was a wonderful way to end the trip as we pointed the car down the mountain and in the direction of the airport – via the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Wearily I finally made it home an hour before midnight and with delightful thoughts dancing in my head of all the wonderful sites, the amazing people I had met and the warmth, generosity and lovely company of my fabulous hostess Judy. I had the most incredible weekend and it is definitely something that I shall remember for years to come – if not forever.
Come again soon – I want to dig a big lake, and have a huge fountain, with an island and bridge with loads of colourful trees – I reckon that’s doable – now where’s Hubby the Un-Gardener so I can give him a shovel!
Sarah the Gardener : o )