Extreme measures Central Victoria’s climatic excesses are just the kind of challenge nurseryman David Glenn relishes.

Even though it’s mid-November, nurseryman David Glenn has been up at sparrows, watering the frost off the tomatoes. It seems absurd as in a couple of months he’ll be dealing with the opposite extreme: summer temperatures at Lambley, his nursery and garden at Ascot in the central Victorian central highlands, frequently hit the low 40s and the hot,dry wind gusting across the paddocks desiccates everything in its path. Tomatoes (more about them later) aside, David prefers not to battle with the climate and instead has spent the best part of 25 years establishing a benchmark dry climate garden as an adjunct to the nursery.

At the time of Australian Country’s visit, Lambley has the welcome mat out in spring carnival colours, beginning with the 400-metre driveway lined with flowering cherries underplanted with myriad blue agapanthus. Behind the two-metre hedges on the right is the dry-climate  showpiece, and an equally splendid kitchen garden interspersed with a colourful riot of perennials is on the other side. Behind that is an allée of ornamental pears with salvias for groundcover. “There are 20,000 crocus planted beneath them so there’s always something flowering,” David explains. “Lots of visitors bring picnics to enjoy in the shade.”

Drystone walls surrounding the 1860s bluestone Burnside homestead screen the private areas, with greenery enveloping the house and a vast park-like expanse guarded by various fruit trees off to one side. In deference to the region’s cherry farms of bygone days, David planted a range of cherry varieties and last year they rewarded him “with so much fruit we didn’t bother netting because the birds couldn’t possibly eat it all”. Slightly further afield are two of the most significant trees in the garden, both dating probably from the 1870s when John Lester, later the district’s shire president, first established the garden. The towering Sequoiadendron giganteum and a Pinus nigra bear testimony to a time  when gentlemen with connections had access to plants imported for botanic and other public gardens.

David hastens to add that the property he and his wife, artist Criss Canning, bought in 1987 bears little resemblance to the present spectacle. “It had been constantly farmed since 1838 so the soil was completely compacted,” he explains. “Basically we started with 20 acres of horehound, pademelon and thistles. But as Criss said, ‘if it grows good weeds, the soil can’t be all bad’, so we set to work, digging it up, adding lime to counteract the acidity, composting and mulching to inhibit the weeds and retain any moisture.”

The full story was originally published in the May 2016  issue of Australian Country. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass