Heronswood (Australia)

Is Heronswood one of the world's finest gardens?

Heronswood overlooks Port Phillip Bay

Is Heronswood one of the world's finest gardens?

In the last year Heronswood has been listed as one of the world’s best gardens in the book The Gardener’s Garden.

Set in the foothills of Arthurs Seat and commanding spectacular views across the bay, Heronswood House provides the backdrop to a garden of spring cottage flowers and summer perennials, as well as an extensive collection of edible plants including heirloom vegetables pioneered by Diggers 22 years ago.

Other features include a gigantic Cook Island Pine (Araucaria columnaris) and a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) that are probably both 150 years old, dating back to about the same time that Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens were being planted out by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (more than 100 years before the famous English gardens Sissinghurst and Hidcote).

Heronswood’s creator, Edward La Trobe Bateman, is regarded by many to be as important in early garden design in Australia as von Mueller’s successor, William Guilfoyle, who transformed the Melbourne Botanic Gardens into the brilliant garden we know today.

Home of The Diggers Club

Clive and Penny Blazey are Heronswood's eighth owners, following a motley bunch of Supreme Court judges, eminent academics, butchers, bakers and lately gardeners. The historic house and garden are now preserved for all time in the recently established Diggers Foundation. The last few years has seen the establishment of a kitchen garden which supplies about 80% of vegetables served in the ‘Fork to Fork’® restaurant. Almost all the vegetables are heirlooms and the site is one of Australia's only two organically certified publicly open gardens in Australia.

Inside the other historic building is the drop slab cottage (circa 1864) which used to house the Diggers Garden Shop but will soon be the home of the ‘Gallery of Plant Sex and Seeds’. For those who wonder at the focus on plant sex, take a moment to consider why a 100-year-old pear tree has never fruited or why avocados change sex during the day from males to females and back again to improve their chances of pollinating and therefore fruiting. The production of seeds could only occur after the evolution of flowering plants was facilitated by the development of insect pollinators.

In short, we need bees to pollinate plants to create the seeds that form our grains for food, our grasses for pasture-fed meats, and plants we depend on for shelter, clothing and medicines. Understanding plant sex in the garden is crucial for all gardeners who grow fruit trees, or vegetables such pumpkins and sweet corn.

The house and garden are open every day.


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