Avondale - A special garden

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Trevor Nottle has reviewed Avondale prior to its second opening from Sat 30th Sept until Mon 2nd Oct. Please go to "Current Season" above to view garden details and take the chance to visit this lovely garden at Rhynie.

Try putting 156 Avondale Road, Rhynie into your GPS or Sat-Nav. It won’t come up as a destination. Why is that? It is because the road is a dirt road and so is considered off the virtual map. There is no need to abandon the trip though, the road is really there, and a very good one too. And OGSA signs will guide you safely all the way. The trip is well worth the drive from Adelaide, or anywhere in the state. We bumped into cousins from Booleroo Centre on the day we went so we made the most of the day by enjoying a real afternoon tea surrounded by the garden..

The garden is one that I hold in very high regard because of the vision of those who made it, and maintained it. The vision is clear and based on an understanding of the site, soil and climate. Knowing observation has been used to determine how the garden would be developed and what would be planted. Its peak season has set the development plan and been used as the guide to building that time up to make a display that is both simple and rich.

Driving along the white gravelled road visitors pass by numerous wattles in bloom, old olive trees, a scattering of grey-barked gum trees and some she-oaks with green fields of wheat or pasture and paddocks of golden canola in full flower; it is all very bucolic and as it should be.

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But what’s this? A river, a river of blue, a river that runs down a low rise and curls around to pool in the bottom of a shallow hollow. This is no mean streamlet but a decent sized creek. It turns out to be, in fact, a clever trick for the water at a closer look is a massed planting of spring bulbs. Thousands up thousands of blue Roman hyacinths, possibly millions of Grape Hyacinths, and thousands more of amenones planted in great intertwining drifts. The scale is huge and very telling in the broader landscape. The effect will be later heightened with equally large numbers of bluebells and Spanish Irises highlighted with a few clumps of red tulips. The concept is brilliant and the execution exemplary. And so simple.

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Further up the drive, as it ascends a hill the house is revealed and its surrounding garden. Following the pattern of planting already established at the entrance more bulbs, many more bulbs build into a rich tapestry that is lavish, extensive and astonishing. The palette of blues continues a linking theme but it is enhanced by great drifts of white tazetta jonquils and daffodils in white, cream and yellow. The garden is a relaxed affair of dense trees organised as screens and shelter belts with open areas of grass and pools of flowers with shrubby backgrounds. And everywhere there are daffodils, anemones, grape hyacinths and Roman hyacinths. Adjacent to the house there is a delightful rock garden with a small waterfall and a chain of ponds alive with gold-fish. Here more varied flowers show themselves off against the mossy rocks of the stream side. Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) have naturalised by self-seeding and spread under the canopy of trees in sheets of white and pink with a few darker wine colours. Beside these clumps of cream and pink primroses spangle the mossy stream banks.

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Under a bank of trees visitors will find a long walk that leads deep into the garden away from the house. Here the numbers of daffodils are huge and the diversity at its greatest. There are no single bulb plantings but in keeping with the scale of the site numbers are generous. Over the years each variety has multiplied and the clumps separated to spread the increase and build the show. The walk, a stroll garden in design terms, brings visitors to a sundial surrounded by massed bulbs that make a sophisticated kind of cottage garden. Roughly circular in shape and criss-crossed by narrow stone paths that encourage a closer look at the flowers it seems to pool as a conclusion to the entire layout. From here the view across a large area of grass includes the house front and the farm fields beyond with a narrow strip of creamy white tazetta jonquils lining the drive establishing the dividing line between garden and landscape. It is, without doubt, a very satisfying and complete outlook that completes the garden tour.

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Things I noted:

  • Do more of what works, in the case of Avondale more and more bulbs used in every way – naturalised plantings, formal walks, in shrubberies and under trees, in a rockery and in flower filled borders.

  • Live in the environment, accept the way the seasons and climate work; with very restricted water resources available for gardening the choice of a spring garden is smart, and the decision to plant bulbs very clever as they grow when the rains are reliable. When the bulbs die down the garden will change to match the summer scene and real gardening is concentrated around the water feature, so in effect the garden contracts seemingly making it even more alive than it is.

  • Work in scale with the setting. Surrounded by paddocks and with distant views and wide open skies the designer has responded to the setting by employing a generous scale for the layout and for the mass plantings.

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