Five private gardens that will give you backyard envy

Top view of Broughton Hall

Jane Canaway

Posted September 04, 2019

Take a sneak peek inside Victoria’s best private gardens.

A forgiving climate, homesick settlers and a flush of gold-rush money – flowing in just when public parks became fashionable – has left us with the lucky legacy of glorious botanic gardens in many regional centres. All are worth a visit if you’re in the area.

But while public gardens are perfect for group outings, boisterous kids and picnics, there’s something delightful about peeking into people’s home gardens when the gates open to the public. It offers a fascinating glimpse into their private world, and their personality, because gardens are very personal creations.

If you are exploring Victoria this spring, there are a host of gorgeous gardens you can visit. Here are five of the best. Just remember to check open times and respect the owners’ privacy.

A section of garden at Broughton Hall
Garden feature by Australian garden designer Paul Bangay
Sunnymeade in Anglesea. Photo: Claire Takacs

Broughton Hall

125 Palmer Road, Jindivick
1hr 40 minutes from Melbourne CBD

On a hilltop in West Gippsland, plantsman and artist David Musker has arranged his outstanding collection of rare and unusual plants with panache, exploiting breathtaking views over the land.

While the design will make your heart sing – soft perennial borders and spectacular shrubs separated by manicured hedging – it is David’s unconventional plant choices such as Himalayan dogwood and Californian tree poppies, that surprise even the most experienced gardener.

Blessed by good rainfall, soil and altitude, there’s interest here in every season. For opening times, visit:

DON’T MISS: The nursery next door which sells the plants on display in the garden.


10 Belty Drive, Denver
1hr 15 minutes from Melbourne CBD

Paul Bangay is one of the leading architects of Australian garden design. His inner-city creations spawned a generation of copycat designs, but his true genius is sculpting landscape on a grand scale, which he has done here.

He has created a series of discrete yet connected spaces around his villa home, built to maximise its hilltop views. It is an extraordinary vision, beautifully executed.

Paul regularly opens his garden as a fundraiser, but also offers small tours, with seasonal highlights, from tulips and crabapples in spring to the white garden in summer and perennial borders in autumn. You can stay at the Farm House on site, which includes a garden visit:

DON’T MISS: Stand at the top of the pool and admire the view that inspired it all. It’s hard not to be impressed at how the garden frames the vista.

Stonefields swimming pool

The stunning views from the swimming pool at Stonefields.


2866 Northern Grampians Road, Wartook
3hrs 30 minutes from Melbourne CBD

In the north-west corner of the Grampians the Wartook valley is often overlooked, but one garden makes it worth a visit. Called Wartook, it is the life’s work of Jeanne and Royce Raleigh, who converted an open paddock into two hectares of colour and form. There are more than 1000 species of astonishing native plants, many rarely seen elsewhere, with mature trees that frame it majestically. But there are also roses and a productive garden, and the land is a haven for wildlife, too.

Now retired, the couple no longer run their B&B business but will open the garden to groups by appointment. Bookings: (03) 5383 6200.

DON’T MISS: The garden is at its best in October to mid November, when cobalt-blue dampieras and neon-coloured lechenaultias explode in sapphire, orange and red.


48 Harvey Street, Anglesea
1hr 35 minutes from Melbourne CBD

While Peter Shaw and wife Simone, who run Ocean Road Landscaping, were building their home on the Anglesea heath, they fell in love with the local plants and chose to highlight them in their garden. Blasted by salt-laden winds and hot, dry summers, they also needed plants that could survive.

Texture and form are everywhere: wind-stunted stringybark trees stretch twisted limbs over topiaried mounds of grey and green, their shapes echoed with spherical art and a circular birdbath, which can be emptied and used as a firepit. Even the lawn is mounded into shape.

One of the few pops of colour amid the grey-blue-green mosaic comes from a carmine-pink bougainvillea on a metal frame, and the contrast is dramatic.

DON’T MISS: Sunnymeade is open only every two years, with the next open weekend January 18 to 19, 2020, although an extra tour is on September 28, 2019.

Garden of St Erth

189 Simmons Reef Road, Blackwood
1hr 30 minutes from Melbourne CBD

Life would have been hard for Matthew Rogers, who in 1861 built this small cottage, named for his Cornish birthplace.

The garden came a century later, created by plant lover and gardening editor of The Age, Tommy Garnett, to house his vast collection of rare and unusual plants.

In 1996 the Diggers Club took over and redesigned the four hectares to display the hardy ornamental plants and different vegetables the seed-selling club stocks, plus a showcase orchard. As well as a cafe, the club runs workshops at the garden and recently installed glamping tent accommodation.

Open daily except some holidays, and the St Erth Spring Festival is on 2 and 3 November 2019 with mini workshops, garden tours, stalls, kids’ activities and River Cottage Australia presenter Paul West:

DON’T MISS: Note the nifty ways used to make the veggie plot look lovely. It’s a great place for learning.

Special mention

Cranbourne’s regional branch of the Royal Botanic Gardens is essential viewing for every Victorian, and overseas visitors should be encouraged to go too. Designed as living art using plants, it explains our state’s diverse landscapes, showcases our local plants, and is a beautiful garden that’s fun for kids with easy access.