The Garden of St Erth history

The Garden of St Erth is built on the abandoned 19th century gold mining town of Simmons Reef. During the brief gold rush in the 1860s and 70s thousands of miners lived in the area working the quartz reef and nearby Lerderderg River for gold. Our historic cottage was built in 1853 by stonemason and goldminer Mathew Rodgers and today serves as our Diggers retail shop and nursery. 

The garden was founded in 1969 by Tommy Garnett and his wife Penny who spent their retirement years improving the impoverished mining rubble soil, collecting plants and transforming the hillside into a fertile oasis. Many of the established trees, bulbs and landscaping were originally placed by Tommy and it is these elements that provide the framework for the garden today. Tommy wrote regular garden articles for The Age and was involved in the Australian Open Garden Scheme; using the gardens at St Erth to collect and trial plants and further build his horticultural knowledge. 

The Diggers Foundation purchased the garden in 1996 and have continued to develop and grow the garden. An heirloom apple and pear espalier orchard was planted in 2003 and provides seasonal fruit to the Fork to Fork café. Cottage borders and flower gardens feature Digger’s range of flowering perennials and bulbs. Our Dry Climate garden was planted in the early 2000s to meet the changing climatic conditions and provide an example of beauty, colour and form that thrives in our hot dry summers with limited water.