National Congress 2015 hosted by NSW Camellia Research Society

Canmews Spring Summer 2015One can take a step back in time when crossing the other Richmond Bridge (the NSW version) to Bell’s Line of Road in the Blue Mountains northwest of Sydney. Archibald Bell, was shown the traditional pathway of aborigines to cross the Blue Mountains by two Darug men, Emery and Cogy, in 1823. The second crossing of the mountains remained a poor cousin to the Great Western Highway (route found by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson) until the Second World War, when another escape route for Sydney deemed necessary.

Our North By Northwest journey took us up the steep and winding Bell’s Line of Road to Bilpin, Mt Tomah and Mt Wilson. In these places many fine old gardens exist, some dating back to the 19th century. In all we visited six private gardens and a botanic garden.

Sakui Maze and Garden in Bilpin was by far the newest garden. Starting with a grassed paddock in 1999, owners On and Chloe began planting using “left-overs from our hedging and screening nursery! into the 8 hectare property. The feature planting is a 2000 sq m Camellia Sasanqua hedge maze. Plans for “more Horti-Sculpture forms, along with a café, gallery and nursery” are being implemented this year with habitable structures, allowing On & Chloe to live on site, high on their agenda.

Crossing the road to Wildwood a welcome cuppa to warm us against the cool mountain weather was taken in the gift shop, nursery and tea room. This was also our first opportunity to make the Tasmanian and Western Australians amongst us envious, by buying plants of many shapes and sizes. The nursery formed the entry and exit to the 10 hectare property, with 2 hectares under garden.

This 30 year old mountain garden has a large lake and a bore ensuring adequate water supplies. Designed to be seen in any season we were treated to winter and spring visions. Over 600 camellias, along with magnolias, hellebores and bulbs were striking amongst the onset of spring blossom in the azaleas, dogwoods, cherries and so on. Over summer the blue of the hydrangeas, the restful green leaves and the coolness of the man-made waterfall all help to create a retreat. With the onset of autumn the many deciduous trees would fill the landscape with colour. This is certainly a garden to revisit, regardless of the season.

Canmews Spring Summer 2015At 1000 m above sea level the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah is the highest botanic garden in Australia, and is one of three gardens maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. These gardens

opened in 1987 and are set in 252 hectares within the Blue Mountains World IMG_3370Heritage Area, and features a large collection of plants from the cooler southern hemisphere. Naturalist, George Caly, first visited Fern Tree Hill (now Mt Tomah) in 1804. “Tomah” is a word of the Darug aboriginal people meaning “tree fern”.

The NSW Floral emblem, Telopea speciosissima or more commonly known as the New South Wales waratah is a special feature of this garden. They range in colour from the regular red to white (or a very pale green). The Waratah Festival was due to start in a week or so after our visit so many plants and exhibits were seen.

Canmews Spring Summer 2015Once ravaged by bush fires (which helped with the clearing) 30 year old Winterwood, also at Mt Tomah, is the work of Don Schofield. To describe what Don had to endure his leaflet advised “Bracken over two meters high and lots of rocks, in the ground and on top of the ground, lots of rocks”. Today the display of camellias, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and maples under the canopy of eucalypts is amazing. Limited to only tank water the under-plantings tend to be those that can manage with little TLC but the variety was vast.

One tree that deserves a special mention at Winterwood was the magnificent and huge weeping cherry. As big as the house, set on a sloping landscape and in full bloom it was splendid.

Canmews Spring Summer 2015

A little further up the mountain range is Mt Wilson. Here we really took a step back in time when visiting three massive gardens dating back to the 1870’s & 1880’s.

One garden, Nooroo, was built and planted in 1880 by William Hay and original plantings include English oaks, chestnuts, ash and cedars which are underplanted with thousands of bulbs including, bluebells, daffodils and crocus. The garden and property were owned by the Valder family for more than 70 years from 1917.

Similar in age to Nooroo, the delightful Windyridge Garden has undergone mass plantings over the last 20 or so years. For example, in 1998 over 2000 Kurume Azaleas were planted on the high side of the driveway giving glorious colour in Spring, while the 400 Japanese Maples provide the Autumn wonder.

Merry is an old English word for blessed, and Garth is a North Country word for enclosure. The land on which Merry Garth stands was part of the first Mt Wilson property from 1875, with the small workman’s cottage built in 1930. As with the other two gardens visited in the rainforest region, Merry Garth has outstanding views of the surrounding Blue Mountain ranges.

Two full days visiting gardens in their Spring splendor, has only whetted our appetite to revisit them all in another season or two.

Sincere thanks to the NSWCS members who worked tirelessly to make our visit one to remember.

Charles Lee – Hume Camellia Society – Editor
References: Most data taken from garden brochures and various historical society webpages.
Panoramic photography is by Jim Powell and Jenny Donohoe.

This entry was posted in National Show. Bookmark the permalink.