A fabulous garden and superb lunch

Well, we didn’t travel far this day. When we woke it was drizzling down rain so all the washing I had on the line was wet. I took it all up to the Laundry and put in the dryer. The Laundry at the park was one of the largest and cheapest I’ve seen for a long time. The washers were only $2 per wash and the dryers were also only $2. Bargain.

So we had a leisurely breakfast while we waited for the washing to dry. We didn’t drive out of the Doon Reserve Caravan Park at Yarra Junction until 10.30am.

Our route took us via Healesville and Yarra Glen. It was a very pretty drive through the hills and forests that eventually gave way to farm land. We passed apple orchards, strawberry farms and vineyards.

Our first stop was to Alowyn Gardens just north of Yarra Glen. Alowyn Gardens are set on 7 acres of beautifully landscaped garden rooms. The owners purchased the property in 1997 when it was a grazing property. They set about designing and constructing their amazing garden from scratch. The garden has been 25 years of hard work to turn what was once bare paddocks into the lush and shady garden it is today. I can appreciate all the work it took them. Our garden is 3 acres, this one is 7!

You enter the Gardens from the large gravel visitors carpark via a walkway lined with old redgum sleeper offcuts. A huge eagle sculpture looks down on you as you pass by.

The entry leads to the ticket sales counter and the cafe opposite. You can enjoy your morning tea/lunch/afternoon tea seated at one of the tables scattered in a courtyard under some gorgeous maple trees. It’s a lovely spot with dappled shade. We enjoyed a coffee and cake and soaked up the calming atmosphere.

Through the courtyard is the plant nursery filled with such a fabulous variety of plants, pots, garden ornaments and general gardening paraphernalia. They have a wonderful collection of succulents for sale that I know our daughter-in-law would have loved to see.

Behind the courtyard is a large building called the Farm Shed and this is used for functions such as weddings and parties. It really is just a big shed however the internal walls were lined with a honey coloured ply wood and the floors were polished concrete. It would be a lovely venue for a wedding.

You can visit all of these without paying an entry fee however to visit the gardens you pay an entry fee at the ticket sales counter and are given a map of the gardens which has a recommended route to follow.

Before entering the gardens you pass through a shed that has many photos and info on the history of the garden from when John and Pru first bought the property in 1997. It is interesting to see photos of the development of the various garden rooms and read about the planning of each section. Such a lot of work.

Then you enter the gardens. Wow! It takes your breath away. The first thing you see is a 100m long Wisteria Walk. It is truly impressive. I would love to see it when the wisteria is flowering in October. That would be incredible. It was impressive enough just with the long tunnel of greenery.

In the middle of the long walk is a circular garden bed with a spectacular fountain in the middle. The circular bed is a rose garden.

An extensive network of gravel pathways lead you from one garden room to another. There is a Parterre Garden inspired by the great European gardens such as the ones at Versailles.

A Japanese Zen garden is a place for quiet reflection. A very peaceful spot to sit in the garden. The Display Garden is a series of small courtyards and gardens to showcase what can be achieved ina small space.

The French Provincial Garden has a Crab Apple walk, a Chinese Elm walk and a Canadian maple walk. Some of the tall hedges remind me of the gardens at Versailles. This garden is centred around a long rectangular pool full of irises. The two long pools are separated by a central garden with a huge sculpture made of horseshoes.

Here was also the huge display of Sunflowers. This was a stunning mass display of these gorgeous flowers.

Another section is home to the lavender field.

Leading off the French Provincial Garden via a lovely gate is the Labyrinth. The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness and represents a journey to your own centre and back out again into the world. A labyrinth usually has one entry and one exit. The labyrinth at Alowyn Gardens is made up of 980 plants of Phontinia Robusta and it is pruned 3 times a year to maintain it’s shape.

There is an extensive Vegetable & Kitchen garden with avenues of fruit trees. There is even a whole section devoted to berries that is under its own netting to keep the birds out.

The Dry Garden is based on an Australian forest and includes all our Aussie favourites including bottle trees. There is a large pond and wetlands area in this garden. The wetlands recycle all the run-off water from the plant nursery and it gets used over again. The mulch is made from all the recycled pruning from the garden.

The Birch Forest is full of three different types of Birch tree underplanted with bulbs and hellebores.

The Casuarina Forest includes an historic Miners Hut with its outdoor fire pit with a billy hanging over it. The Miners Hut houses early Australian memorabilia.

The Perennial Border garden has a collection of plants chosen for their toughness and ability to survive hot summers and cold winters with minimum care. I like this one!

Finally you exit the garden into the Plant Nursery and the lovely Maple Courtyard.

We’d spent a couple of hours exploring the gardens and they truly are magnificent. What a credit they are to owners John and Prue. As we were leaving we got chatting to the lady behind the ticket sales counter and it turned out to be Prue herself. What a treat to chat with her. We could have chatted for longer however new visitors were arriving. It was a busy place. We thanked Prue, got back in the motorhome and continued on our meander.

We didn’t get very far up the road when we came to De Bortoli’s Wines. We’d never been to their Yarra Valley winery and thought we’d better have a look. De Bortoli’s Wines began their story in Bilbul just out of our home town of Griffith. It is still a family owned business with vineyards and wineries in multiple locations.

The entry, driveway and gardens are impressive and beautifully maintained. We were impressed. The carpark is large and we had no problem finding a spot for the motorhome. As we entered the cellar door we were asked if we were here for lunch. We were surprised as we’d thought the restaurant wasn’t open on Mondays. However it is Tuesday they are closed so we grabbed the opportunity to have lunch in the restaurant we’d heard so much about.

We were not disappointed. For $70 each you can have two courses and we both elected to have primi and secondi (starter and main). Superb is all I can say about the food. Absolutely superb.

Around the walls of the restaurant are photos of the De Bortoli family and their farms and wineries through the years and I was delighted to find one of Piero Bisa driving a two-horsepower spray unit. Vittorio De Bortoli married Giuseppina Bisa and Piero was her brother. Piero’s daughter Luciana (Lucy) married my uncle Peter.

After a lovely lunch we continued our meander and headed northwards arriving in the town of Yea around 3. We couldn’t find a free/low cost camp on WikiCamps so headed to the Riverside Caravan Park where we were able to get a powered site on the bank of the little Yea river. It was a lovely grassy site with a nice view of the water below.


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