This Southern Highlands country garden enjoys year-round beauty

Take a tour of this English-style country garden bursting with blooms.
Southern Highlands country garden driveway and London plane trees.Photography: Claire Takacs

This two-hectare private property in NSW’s Southern Highlands is a garden made for picking. Whether it’s roses in spring or perennials enjoying a second bloom in late summer, the seeds are sown for their eventual fleeting beauty. While cutting flowers for vases means they will fade in time, that doesn’t bother plantsman Colin Blanch, who has worked on the garden for 27 years.

By the time a flower has died, he’s already moved on to the next one. It’s by his design – the garden has peaks in each season so there’s always something to work on, a new bud to enjoy. “We use a technique called successional planting,” says Colin. “Each month, there’s something of interest, not just a big bang in spring.”

Weatherboard country cottage garden with foxglove flowers and trees.
White foxgloves stand tall as seen in gatherings by the weatherboard cottage. They’re a flower often seen in the Great Dixter garden in England, where Colin volunteers. “They rely on grants and funding to train students,” says Colin. Having spent so much time honing his skills there, he’s grateful he was able to give back. (Photography: Claire Takacs)
English country garden weatherboard cottage and red geums.
Red geums, white valerians and blue delphiniums grow beside the weathered cedar-clad cottage. (Photography: Claire Takacs)
Southern Highlands country garden driveway and London plane trees.
The branches of these London plane trees reach across the driveway, creating an elegant archway that frames the barn on this private property in the NSW Southern Highlands. As with everything planted in this English-style garden, its beauty changes with the seasons. In spring, new leaves begin to sprout. The fern-like foliage of Queen Anne’s lace also begins to flower at this time. (Photography: Claire Takacs)

Colin first became involved with the garden when his clients in Sydney purchased the property. With established trees and basic gardens, the brief was to improve the bones and create a flowing country garden in an English style. It certainly suits the climate of the area.

Roughly 750 metres above sea level, the locale has four distinct seasons so the work required is constantly evolving. “We need plants that can handle frost and low temperatures. I call it putting the garden to sleep,” says Colin when asked about winter. “I mulch it, cut all the perennials down and then it starts to wake up again in late August.”

“The mist on the lake rolls in from the escarpment, creating the perfect environment for cool climate gardening.”

Southern Highlands field and white blossoms.
A soft layer of mist rolls over the fields, creating an atmospheric vista that evokes slow mornings spent cuddled up in the warmth. In the foreground, hardy annuals like the Orlaya Grandiflora please with their white blossoms, which face towards the sun in a circular motif. Pink peony poppies add a soft and feminine feel, with the flowers delightfully reminiscent of upturned petticoats and full skirts. (Photography: Claire Takacs)
Southern Highlands field with sheep and foxgloves.
Suffolk sheep are bred on the property and owned by Colin. (Photography: Claire Takacs)
Country garden white foxgloves.
While beautiful, the foxgloves serve a perfectly practical purpose. “Foxgloves and delphiniums are used extensively throughout the garden creating vertical spires for the Eastern spinebills and bees to feed from,” explains Colin. (Photography: Claire Takacs)

There are different sections to the sprawling garden, complete with a mix of perennials and annuals. The woodland garden, with its dappled and semi-shaded light, is filled with spring bulbs and hellebores. Meanwhile roses, delphiniums and foxgloves face more direct exposure to sunshine. No matter the season, the rural vistas of hills and the Wingecarribee waterway provide a stunning backdrop.

Weatherboard cottage and path with London plane trees.
The trees were planted by a previous owner and grow just beyond the path around the cottage. (Photography: Claire Takacs)
Weatherboard cottage and gatherings of poppies.
Poppies and Queen Anne’s lace are free seeders and pop up randomly throughout the garden,” says Colin. They appear near the cottage alongside sweet peas and delphiniums. (Photography: Claire Takacs)

While the garden has never been open to the public, it was the setting for a recent workshop which raised $27,000 for the Great Dixter historic house and garden in England, where Colin volunteers every July. But he’s too busy to reflect with pride over all he’s created. “I always feel that it’s never complete,” says Colin. “I look at it and think, ‘What can I do next year to improve it?’”

  1. Salvia is a large herbaceous and semi-deciduous flower.
  2. One of the frilliest flowers around, peony poppies are beautifully feminine.
  3. Foxglove flowers resemble delicate fairy hats in children’s picture books.
  4. One of the most romantic blooms, anyone would be tickled pink to receive a herbaceous peony like this.
  5. Golden columbine always brightens.
  6. Lupins give rise to towers of flowers.
  7. With a structural silhouette and delicate petals, bearded irises need plenty of sunshine and protection from strong winds and frosts.
  8. Sweet peas are delicately fragrant.
Perfect for picking
English style country garden sweet peas and foxgloves.
Sweet peas, white foxgloves, ‘Sweet Lilli’ agastaches and Queen Anne’s lace provide the perfect blend of colours to contrast against the dark and weathered wood of the cottage. “Most of the plantings are herbaceous with colour combinations that harmonise,” shares Colin, who has no plans of slowing down his progress. (Photography: Claire Takacs)

Gardener, horticulturalist and plantsman: Colin Blanch, @gardening_4.


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