Floating in Cloudehill Heaven

Sherbrooke Memorial Gardens, Dandenong Ranges. Janna Schreier

Sherbrooke bushland, on the road to Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges

My extremely green-fingered friend had told me that Cloudehill was her favourite Australian garden and so it was with much excitement that I drove up the steep, winding road to Olinda.

It’s rare that I don’t love a garden.  In fact, I’m pretty fickle.  My favourite garden in the world is often the most recent one I have been to.  But this was special.  Really special.  I think the only one that has induced me to say ‘wow’, out loud, to myself, with no one else in earshot.

Because, at the top of the hill, amongst this beautiful, natural bushland, in the middle of a hot, Australian summer, you turn a corner and see this:

The warm borders at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

The Warm Borders at Cloudehill. I love the detail of the path, too, and the wonderful, deep green hedges that set the plantings off so well

And this:

Cool border at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

The Cool Borders at Cloudehill. So soft, in colour and in texture

Sights that are pretty rare to see in this part of the world.  And sights that are not only maintained to perfection, but also designed to perfection, on both a macro, structural level and a micro, planting level.

Cloudehill is set on the side of a mountain, and uses this to its absolute full advantage, without letting any possible negatives creep in.

Tree colour at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Looking back up the hill, seeing the contrasting colours of the trees at Cloudehill. See how they nestle against the native trees so well

It has been terraced close to the house, allowing formal garden rooms to sit perfectly against its backdrop but there are more free, looser areas as the garden blends with the woodland lower down; meadows on the natural banks and curving paths through informal shrub borders.  It is the perfect, balanced garden.  Yin and yang; complementary opposites at play, all interconnected and interdependent.  Each part adding to the others and all parts forming an holistic entity, the garden at ease with the surrounding vegetation.

Warm border at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Sophisticated planting with Dahlia, Crocosmia, Achillea and Salvia adding hot colour to the border

The planting is highly sophisticated.  Colour, form and texture are all used to contrast and complement each other to the full.  The warm borders are bold, bright and with deep colours.  And yet lime foliage and flowers are injected, providing real energy and life.  The cool borders (I would prefer ‘soft’ borders); pastels and delicate, wispy textures, so soothing and romantic.  Everything sits beautifully together in each garden room.

Wonderful colour and texture combinations at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

The lush green growth looks wonderful with red Heleniums and purple Cotinus. Uniformly spaced fastigiate yews (Taxus) add rhythm (here, on far right)

And everything so fresh and lush and thriving.

Formal vista at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Formal vistas can be a little static and dull, but here they link the garden rooms beautifully (which are off to both sides at various levels) and give a calm respite from the busier areas

The meticulously planned structure of the gardens incorporates many vistas, both across and up and down the mountain.  The yin and yang again of formality and informality.

Looking up to the Azalea steps at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Straight and curving steps work perfectly together. Use of the same materials links the two together, with abundant planting next to the curving section and neat, symmetrical hedges next to the straight pathway, giving individual character

The straight pathways blending seamlessly into soft, curving pathways.

The water garden at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

The water garden has a very formal structure but lovely, soft, informal planting of flowering Pondeteria, Nymphaea, and Hydrangea

If anything, my personal preferences tend more towards informal rather than formal, but the play of formal structure with informal planting is very hard to beat.  This water garden, so formally laid out, is, to me, stunning; the plants softening it so well.  The structure anchors it and gives it purpose, the planting gives it the soft beauty of nature.  Such exquisite plant choices again.

As you walk down further towards the woodland, the blend of softness and neatness continues.

Woodland area at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Even the informal areas are beautifully maintained. They feel unrestrained and yet there was not a weed to be seen

And out of nowhere, around another corner, a small pavilion arises, in a boggy area filled with hostas (and not a slug to be found!).

Peony pavilion at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

The Peony Pavilion, surrounded by hostas. I must make it back to see the peonies in flower

There are about 50 sculptures in the garden, some permanent, some temporary, some for sale, some not.  Sculptures so often look wrong, but here, look so right.  Materials are attuned to their surroundings, the scale in proportion, the setting as if they had always been there. Immense skill has made this garden what it is.

Statue at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Statue in the water garden, placed in a recess of perfect proportions

I’ll leave you with a close up of the water garden plants, whilst I plan my next trip back……  Thank goodness it was 13 degrees and cloudy whilst we were there, or I would be packing up our house, too.  I shall forever be torn between beautiful weather and beautiful gardens and forever seek to be the first to optimise the two.

Water plants at Cloudehill. Janna Schreier

Purple Pondeteria rush and apricot Nymphaea (water lilies)

11 thoughts on “Floating in Cloudehill Heaven

  1. Adriana says:

    I wish I had known you were going to see Cloudehill Janna I would’ve joined you as I still haven’t been this year yet! Stunning as ever – going by your photos.

  2. Adriana says:

    Yes I’ll try too very soon, as it looks fabulous (we have not had a lot of heat here as yet only the odd day – so that is probably why). I used to live only a couple of Ks from Cloudehill – as you say the cold (but also the fire risk up there) drove us away (more the cold and wind though). When you come to see it again, let me know.

  3. Catherine says:

    You are so right Janna. Cloudehill is a superb, world-class garden that’s easily a match for Britain’s finest. It’s worth a visit even in the dead of winter and your photos of the summer borders are divine. I like it for the spaces and the way you progress through the garden as much as for the planting and I agree, it’s a perfect balance between formality and informality. I hadn’t thought of it that way before – you are most insightful

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks ever so much, Catherine, what a kind comment! I can imagine it is beautiful in winter too (although I am less keen to experience winter temperatures, if midsummer is 13 degrees!).

  4. Louise Dutton says:

    I love the cool borders photo! I want that look in my garden……grow plants grow! Janna, what is that feathery looking plant? Another garden to add to my list to visit, thanks Janna.

    • jannaschreier says:

      So glad you are inspired to garden visit. And your garden will look like that. Just enjoy watching it grow (and keep asking questions!). The feathery grass is Pennisetum (fountain grass). It will grow in Canberra although be careful it doesn’t get weedy and invade your nearby bushland. If you can find a named cultivar, they don’t usually spread, although avoid ‘Rubrum’ with purple leaves – I tried it in my garden in Canberra but it didn’t get through the frosts. Good luck finding one!

  5. Kathie Thomas says:

    I’ve just discovered you on Twitter. I love Cloudehill too and don’t go there often enough. It is literally only about 15-20 mins’ drive from where I live and I go there to draw inspiration for my own gardens. I love to photograph it too.

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