This past Saturday was one of those days that provides intense relief amidst a period of stinking hot, humid sunny days. It was cool and dark and wet and in short, the perfect day for visiting one of the country’s most beautiful gardens. A girlfriend of mine who shares my passion for garden analysis and observation (if not always for actual garden maintenance) and I ventured excitedly out into the pouring rain to check out Paul Bangay’s current country garden, Stonefields, about an hour outside Melbourne, which was open to raise money for Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation (which is a fabulous initiative to get kids in schools growing and cooking their own produce).
Let me tell you, it was stunning; an oasis of green and a haven of obviously planned, well-manicured, thriving garden ‘rooms’ . You enter the garden through a series of connected courtyards, which traverse the gentle incline of the grounds and gradually reveal the house beyond. The first courtyard is quite simple, just high hedged walls, a central water pond (above), and the spherical shapes in each corner.
From here the house is visible through a round window in the hedge wall.
These garden beds contained a selection of purple-flowering plants. The greens and purples looked just beautiful together.
The house was, to me, just as interesting as the garden. It’s like a modern Australian interpretation of a classic French farmhouse- very simple in design, big on symmetry and very beautiful. It has central two-story section which is flanked on either side by a wing with round windows on the front side (above), and french doors on the rear, facing the view (see below). It is also very masculine – lots of dark earthy greys outside, accents of slate, and grey/greens inside.
There is no shortage of the clipped topiaries that Paul is known for- I dread to think of the maintenance involved, but the arrangement and effect is really impressive.
See the slate detail that wraps around the centre of the central ‘tower’? It was also used around the doors and as a detail skirting the bottom of the building.
The house itself wasn’t actually open to the public, so I didn’t want to post a lot of the interior, but wanted to show you the stone fireplace and the bookshelves on either side- one houses a secret door that leads to the bedroom- this idea is now on my must-have list if I build!
On the end of the kitchen wing is a mudroom/utility room that opens onto this kitchen garden (above), complete with bell tower and beds of herbs.
Firewood stacked by the mudroom door (above).
On the other side of the house all the ground-floor rooms have french doors which open onto this terrace and to the incredible views beyond.
The area outside the kitchen is covered by this simple iron trellis, decorated with grapevines.
The master wing (above) opens onto a terrace of red sun lounges.
It’s hard to see here, but the view across the countryside was absolutely breathtaking.
I just had to show you this incredible mudroom- the perfect place for coats and boots, laundry facilities, a bench and sink for flowers and vegie-washing, and also home to extra dishes and glassware. I also love the grey-green colour of the joinery.
The vegetable garden proper (separate to the kitchen herb garden) is further down the hill, and it is home to the happiest, most delicious looking collection of vegie plants! It had me so inspired to establish a proper vegetable garden at home!
Love that green/purple colour combination..
Finally, a view down the hill from the top of the property, looking over the courtyards to the house. What a fabulous day it was!!