One of my favourite gardens in Melbourne is Heronswood in Dromana. Part of the Diggers Club – the producer of the largest range of Heirloom Plants in Australia. Their headquarters are in beautiful seaside surroundings in Dromana and with one of the most marvellous vegetable gardens in Victoria.
The gardens are free for members of the Diggers club, and $10 for general public to view the gardens. There is a cafe onsite, and the Heritage listed house is open to all on open days… if you decide to go, make sure you are prepared for a crowd as this place is popular!
Let start with the gardens…
On entry to the property, there is a wonderful nursery store (more later on that) and then you plunge into the beautiful garden next to a marvellous house, with bay views and marvellous plants.
The Diggers website lists Heronswood (the house) as;
“The first law professor at Melbourne University, William Hearn, employed Edward Latrobe Bateman to design Heronswood house in 1866. The property’s name was probably derived from Hearn’s family motto, the heron seeks the height, or his family crest, on a mount vert, a heron. Or it could be a contraction of ‘Hearn’s wood’.
Justice Higgins, a Federal Attorney General, was the third owner. He wrote the harvester judgement, which formed the basis of our arbitration system at Heronswood.
The architectural style of the house has been called Gothic Revival. It is made from coursed, squared granite blocks quarried at Arthur’s Seat. The windows, doors and corners are dressed with limestone from the southern end of the peninsula. It features many medieval-inspired elements such as the bell-cast roofs covered in Welsh slate, pointed lancet windows, and buttressing on the front porch. This is in sharp contrast to the elegant symmetry of the neoclassical style seen in buildings like Werribee Park (1876). Each room of Heronswood has its own high-pitched roof, lending the house the imposing air of a castle. But it was conceived primarily as a family home and inside it is quite intimate.”
The gardens are made up of 5 vegetable gardens with other ordered gardens of heirloom flowers and plants with vistas of Port Phillip Bay.
The Grape Vine tunnel has hanging pitcher plants throughout the canopy to control pests.
Red Silver beet is one of my favourite vegetables, and below is one of my favourite recipes I learnt from a restaurant I worked in years ago:
Italian stir fried Chard
A bunch of Silver beet or Chard (depending what you call it)
3 cloves of garlic (or two if you like more – personal taste)
oil and butter
In a hot pan heat a good sized knob of butter with a good dash of olive oil. Heat until very hot, and then add the garlic and the anchovies – the key is that you want to dissolve the anchovies and burn the garlic just a little bit. This burn is very important, it adds the flavour to the beet/chard that you need for this to work.
Once it is slightly burnt, add the cleaned and chopped silver beet and toss until just cooked. You may add more butter or oil to taste.
Serve immediately – is lovely as a side with Salmon or red meat.
I never, in my years, have seen a climbing spinach the young leaves of this spinach can be eaten in a salad, and the older leaves can be steamed to softness. A great plant, and has a great look – I may climb it up the side of my house!
The test garden is where Diggers Club tests new heirloom varieties to see whether they are suitable for the Australian climate. Here there were carrots, varied pumpkins, corn and tomatoes to name a few, in raised beds, ideal sizes for most backyards. Everything looked so healthy!
Pears and Apples were trained like grape vines, and appeared to be happily fruiting in these positions. May be a great idea for those who want to grow fruit trees, but don’t have the space to grow them!
Giant Zucchini hung under a trellised vine – a friend is growing this variety and they are massive, but taste great! The largest of the fruit was over 50 cm long!
The garden shop has an amazing array of seeds available to both the public and members – members receive an attractive discount on everything in store. I bought some seeds – Broad beans, French Breakfast Radishes (the same ones pictured in my Paris pictures), Red and Yellow Silver beet and Parsnips. I planted the Broad beans and the Silver beet a week ago, and the Silver beet would have shown 95 – 100% strike rate and were visible in a matter of days! As were the radishes! The seeds are amazingly fresh!
Also available are a great range of books and garden implements, including peat pots and seed propagation equipment.
Outside are amazingly healthy looking plants, 3 varieties of olives, all showing fruit on a “seedling”, Dragon fruit, Lemonade trees and a full range of seedlings at VERY reasonable prices – the olive trees were about $12.00 each for members (next time I am buying some to put in pots!)
I recommend a visit to Heronswood, or their partner garden St Erths in Blackwood. Both have gardens stores and magnificent gardens!
Membership is not expensive and full details can be found at the Diggers Website. Seeds and Plants can be posted all over Australia in most cases too! So check out their website if you are not from Victoria!
105 Latrobe Parade, Dromana.
Open every day from 9am – 5pm
Phone: (03) 5984 7321
Simmons Reef Road, Blackwood.
Open every day (except December 24-26) 9am – 5pm
Phone: (03) 5368 6514
The diggers club can be found at http://www.diggers.com.au where you can access details of all membership details, locations and they even run workshops and courses!!!