Nestled in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, the Monaro region is home to some of the best country gardens in NSW.
Three friends living on historical pastoral properties in the region have teamed up to share their gardens with others through a new venture called Private Gardens.
The gardens are rarely opened to the public, but under the new venture the families will offer exclusive self-drive day tours, fully catered. Numbers are limited to 25 per tour so that there is an opportunity for the visitors to chat with the owners.
The gardens are true “cold climate” gardens, with four distinct seasons – in spring there are bulbs and blossoms, summer leafy greenery, autumn fabulous reds and oranges, and winter heavy frosts and sometimes snow falls.
Libby Litchfield moved to Hazeldean near Cooma in 1994. The property has been home to the Litchfield family for six generations as well as the Hazeldean Merino and Angus studs. The family recently celebrated 150 years of the Merino stud.
Mrs Litchfield said the families involved in the tours wanted a simple way to share their gardens with other garden lovers.
“We all have historic gardens and it’s nice to be able to share them with people who appreciate them,” she said.
“We just do small groups so we can all have a chat and share ideas. It’s just a really lovely day out.”
The Hazeldean garden is surrounded by a 100 year old elm forest and includes terraced lawns, stone walls quarried from the property, and hidden courtyards.
”It’s a generational garden but Jim and I did major changes in 2013,” she said.
“We’d had a lot of years of drought and needed to make it easier to look after.
“We have a beautiful stand of elm trees so we terraced the front garden to maintain moisture and moved a lot gardens to the south east.
"I look after the garden largely by myself and it’s made things a lot easier.”
Nearby, the garden of Shirley, at Nimmitabel, has been developed over three generations of the one family.
John and Sally-Ann Cottle, the current custodians, decided to undertake a major renovation in 2006 and commissioned Melbourne landscape designer Paul Bangay to assist them.
While wanting to retain the work of those who went before them they also wanted to incorporate their love of European garden design.
The Shirley garden now features seven acres of lush, green, expansive lawns, magnificent, mature trees, a parterre garden and a spectacular lake set in the Monaro landscape.
Curry Flat close by has a wonderful 1880’s homestead, also on a lake, with mature trees and a large greenhouse housing a wide range of vegetables and fruits.
The garden was designed and laid out by Claude Crowe of Berrima Bridge Nurseries in 1954 and most of this design also still remains.
The Jardine family settled at Curry Flat in 1846 and the current custodians of the garden, Sue and Jim Jardine have extended the garden, adding the lake to the entrance as well as planting numerous deciduous trees.
The charming garden has several “rooms” including a sundial rose garden, and reflecting pond.
Situated only 1.5 hours from Canberra, the self-drive tours offer a great day trip driving south through the Monaro Plains and discovering these hidden treasures.
Mrs Litchfield said guests visiting the gardens might like to also consider exploring the National Gallery of Australia which is this year featuring Cartier The Exhibition.
This is a breathtaking collection some of the world’s most exquisite jewels, showcasing more than 300 spectacular items. Exhibits include loans from royal families, and celebrities.
For more information visit www.privategardensofmonaro.com.au