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Published February 22nd 2014
An enchanted garden in the hills
While not as well known as Heronswood, The Diggers Club's garden in Dromana, The Garden of St Erth in Blackwood (approx 90km from Melbourne between Ballan and Trentham) offers many similar delights in a more out-of-the-way mountain and bush setting.
In the nineteenth century Blackwood boasted a population of around 13,000 during the height of the gold rush. It's a lot quieter now and there are a few reminders of this history remaining, the St Erth homestead being one.
The homestead forms the entry to the garden as well as a shop showcasing the heritage seeds, gardening equipment and myriad gardening products in line with the Diggers Club's commitment to sustainable gardening. Outside there's a plant nursery with a wonderful array of trees and plants for sale. A pretty cafe offers drinks, cakes and meals indoors or out featuring where possible local produce and some sourced from the garden.
The garden itself is six acres and offers a leisurely amble through different features including perennials, some outstanding mature trees, a bush garden, a dry climate garden, a kitchen garden and a "food forest". Of particular interest is the espaliered orchard, surely an elegant and space saving way to grow fruit.
It's lovely to wander in the garden purely for its beauty and tranquillity however it's also great for inspiration for your garden, particularly if you like to grow your own food.
Better Homes and Gardens, Gardening: St Erth Walkaround
Adjacent to the carpark are the Daffodil Paddock (resplendent in Spring) and the berry orchard.
There are various food and garden focused events and workshops on through the year including an Autumn festival. See their website to see what's on through the different seasons. If you become a member of the Diggers Club you can enjoy free entry to both Heronswood and St Erth as well as discounted products and workshops, gardening advice and much more.
There are plenty of other local activities to enjoy. If you like bushwalking, on the other side of the carpark to St Erth are several walking trails and there are more in the area.
The village of Blackwood itself snuggles alongside the Lerderderg River amidst the native forests of the Lerderderg State Park and Wombat State Forest. There are historic buildings including some tiny miners' cottages. Places to visit nearby include mineral springs and Shaws Lake.
Even if you're not a gardener, a visit to St Erth is a lovely and tranquil experience. This is a truly beautiful part of Victoria. You can practically feel the silence, broken only by the sound of the wind through the trees and the eerie calls of yellow-tailed black cockatoos and other neighbourhood wildlife. Spend some time in the garden, enjoy the pure mountain air and both your spirit and your lungs will thank you.
The garden and nursery are open every day 9-5 with the exception of December 24-26, Good Friday and Code Red and Extreme Fire warning days. The cafe is open for morning and afternoon tea and Lunch from Thursday to Sunday, with coffee and cake available on Monday. The cafe is closed Tuesday & Wednesday. Note that while these days and times are current at the time of writing if you are travelling a long distance to visit the garden and cafe, a phone call to confirm or checking the Diggers Club facebook page may be a good idea.