The untapped potential of garden tourism
It’s late on a Sunday afternoon and I’m among a dozen roughly people admiring the White Garden at Stonefields, designer Paul Bangay’s country home outside Daylesford in Victoria. Inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s white garden at Sissinghurst, and by Bangay’s travels through Iran, it includes a formal simplicity that’s appealing instantly.
A slim rectangular pond is pinned by submerged pots of white iris in its corners. A swerve of white waterlilies sweeps through its centre. The pond is bordered by fine green turf, corner plantings of crabapple and a broad bed of flowers beneath a pleached hedge. The flowers change through the growing season but are white &ndash always; hydrangeas, lilies and gaura in the summertime; with shasta daisies and wind anemones later joining. Right this is a starry froth of columbines now.
By closing time the lawns of Stonefields were showing the consequences of a large number of feet, however the hedges were as tight as ever, the roses as buoyant and the view as stunning.Credit:Robin Powell
Some of my fellow visitors are taking selfies contrary to the sleek green backdrop of the hedge, others are relaxing on the bench watching the nodding heads of the columbines glowing in the late sun, plus some are taking notes and discussing how they might replicate this effect in the home earnestly. We’re a small number of the a lot more than 7500 those who have come through the garden this weekend.
It’s the fifth time Bangay has hosted an Open Garden weekend for his friend Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation, and after some parking chaos last time, timed entry tickets and shuttle buses from the distant carpark this season dripped visitors in to the garden in a reliable trickle. Nonetheless 7500 will be a lot of people also it should be hard to view because the fine lawns get compacted by corner-cutters and rose-lovers leaning set for a sniff. Alexander reckons her friend “ought to be cast in bronze” for his generosity in opening his gates for a meeting that makes a significant contribution to the foundation’s costs of supporting the 800-or so schools that run its program.
The opening draws garden-lovers from as away as New Zealand far, Tasmania and central Queensland. Many of them paid $250 for an exclusive tour with Bangay prior to the hoi polloi arrived and felt it had been money well spent to stay this cleverly designed and meticulously maintained garden with enough time and space to go on it all in.
Not that it is uncomfortable within the White Garden with the keen students, the avid Instagrammers and the chilled-out dreamers. Our scene of inspiration and appreciation was repeated through the entire garden and by closing time the lawns were showing the consequences of a large number of feet, however the hedges were as tight as ever, the roses as buoyant and the view as stunning. Gardens have a tendency to go beneath the tourism radar in Australia however the success of the Stonefields weekend implies that if you open it, we shall come – inside our thousands.