It’s not often that leading Australian garden designer Paul Bangay opens his property ‘Stonefields’ to the public so when I read that it would be open last weekend, the date was immediately marked in the diary. This year’s event was to support the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, an exciting project that Stephanie initiated in schools to encourage children to learn to grow, harvest, prepare and share seasonal produce.
Stonefields is in the Macedon Ranges about a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne and not far from Daylesford. It’s a beautiful drive through open country, forests and small towns.
Walking to the entrance, the horses that I pass remind me that this is rural property.
From the entrance gate, you are encouraged to follow the path to the front of the house so you can enjoy the symmetry of design that Bangay is famous for.
Straight away your eyes are taken to a circle in the hedge that frames the top story of the house. In the corner stands a collection of Bangay’s signature stone orbs and box balls.
Walking around this hedge, the next area features a water channel running down the the centre which is punctuated every so often with coiled snakes that form the water features.
Garden rooms branch off this central pathway. To the right is the walled garden, featuring a headless statue in the centre with blue obelisks standing tall in each quarter. Espaliered trees run along the wall, whilst Red Pierre roses clamber up the obelisks and beautiful pink and purple flowers intermingle with white Queen Anne’s lace. The last of the plum ‘Queen of the Night’ iris stand tall.
To the other side is the white garden, a beautiful tranquil area with a central lily pond.
Espaliered Hornbeam covers the walls – an experiment, I am told by Tim Fawcett, the head gardener, as it is a very slow growing plant.
The gate from here takes you to the designer bee hives that I spotted on the way in.
I don’t want to miss a corner, so I head back to the path to see what the next surprises is.
Standing at the top of the stairs, the view over the parterre garden is stunning. It takes a few minutes to absorb this work of art.
The garden is on two levels. A few steps down, there is a path meandering across the top of this area. At both ends, thatched rotundas stand, drawing your eye along the stone path that winds through different sized balled box hedges. All are perfectly clipped – there is not a leaf out of place!
In front of this is a large, beautifully manicured parterre garden of square and round hedges dotted with cyprus trees
I continue walking around the side of the house and find myself in the woodlands, a grassed area enclosed by garden and overlooked by magestic gum trees. A perfect setting for a cocktail party!
From here, another snaking path leads us through trees and hedges and finally reveals the stunning view at the front of the house.
On the other side, a table has been perfectly placed to enjoy the views. Cleverly, two plane trees have been planted in the middle of the table which will one day form an umbrella for this stunning outside eating area.
Looking back to the house, you can imagine sitting inside the house enjoying the view. The pool runs the length of the grassed area with gardens on either side. One of the gardens has used fabulous grasses and bronzed fennel. Horizontal catoneaster spills over the ledges.
The kitchen is at the far end of the house and popping around the corner I spot the potager or kitchen garden, though I am surprised by the bell tower in the centre. It is fabulous and creates it’s own story.
All that is left to see is the vegetable garden and this too has been given the designer treatment. Beautiful woven wood fences surround the vegetables with a slatted arch marking the entrance. The cabbages were the biggest I had ever seen and the raspberries had lots of fruit on them – it was obviously going to be a bumper crop. Stephanie Alexander would be proud!
It was hard leaving such an amazing property. In fact many people had made themselves very comfortable sitting in different areas and enjoying the views each garden held.
It’s easy to see why Paul Bangay’s reputation reaches to all corners of the world.
The beauty, the balance, the simplicity and the classic all work in harmony with the Australian landscape. You may have to wait another two years for the garden to be open again but it will be worth the wait.