But none of this prepares for arrival at a veritable 19th century ‘hill station’ of the charming village of Mt Wilson with its many English-style houses, gardens and avenues lined with trees of imported species. Combine the rainfall and volcanic soils and you have a perfect formula for cool-climate gardens.
My good friend Paul takes us to visit the twelve acres of gardens at ‘Bebeah’ established in 1880. It is a rare Australian example of a formal country garden estate of imposing scale and a grand sense of design, with its late Victorian gothic weatherboard house built in 1880 by one of the grandsons of William Cox, who built the first road over the Blue Mountains.W e walk down a path of red and pink Kurume azaleas with tiny flowers about the size of a coin, clipped in a wave pattern, below a canopy of maples. Two large white rhododendrons in full bloom stand sentinel in front of an ancient Copper Beech across from the house. This and other old trees in the gardens were imported from America in the 19th century.
How fortunate we are to have timed our visit to see the huge double arc of pink azaleas in full bloom beside a clipped Sasanqua hedge of green as we walk to the Italianate garden. There’s a predominance of cerise in the plantings, but I never tire of experiencing each new setting.
Walking through twelve acres of flowering ‘rooms’ in spectacular spring colour accompanied by clicking of cicadas and the resounding whip-crack calling of the little whip bird in the bushes, builds an appetite for a picnic lunch that Paul and Carolyn prepare. My humble offering of a Rosé from the King Valley goes well with the grilled vegetables, the leftovers from last night’s corned beef, chicken salad, and cold lamb.
And as a surprise to me, Paul resurrected a handsome Fortnum & Mason wicker picnic basket that I’d received as a Christmas hamper from my boss when working in London twenty five years ago, and given to him when I was down-sizing to an apartment about ten years ago.
Then back to Carolyn’s to pick some more Seville oranges for Paul to have a second go at making Seville Marmalade that hopefully this time could be spread on my toast, for breakfast.
I love weekends in the country.