Seduced by Bebeah
It’s hard not to fall in love with traditional cool climate gardens living in the Blue Mountains. They possess a majesty, grace and scale that is compelling. Rows of towering evergreen trees, neat clipped hedges, masses of azaleas, crunchy gravel paths, lush lawns, expansive outlooks and of course the essential water feature or two. They really are the rich garden wonderlands from which childhood fairy tales draw their inspiration.
The remote village of Mt Wilson, I believe represents the pinnacle of this style of gardening in Australia. Comprised entirely of grand historic houses sited in extensive exotic gardens, this exclusive village is located about halfway between Mt Victoria and the Botanic Gardens at Mt Tomah; just a short drive off the lyrically named ‘The Bells Line of Road’. Turning off ‘ The Bells’ and rounding the corner into Mt Wilson, it becomes evident why this botanical marvel exists; the flora abruptly changes from robust, stocky windswept white gums, to tall lush tree ferns and towering eucalypts. A bizarre quirk of nature has provided the perfect micro climate for some ‘extreme gardening’.
Luckily for botanical enthusiasts, the owners of many of the large estates in Mt Wilson graciously open their gates for visitors to explore, some all year round, others just for the most popular seasons of spring and autumn. The local community website is a great resource for intending visitors but as the site states, please be aware ‘there are no shops, petrol stations or medical services in Mt Wilson.’ Given that not only the impressive gardens, but the entire village are wholly reliant on tank water, it’s not surprising that visitors are also requested to ‘please bring your own drinking water!’
On our brief, out of season (i.e winter) visit to Mt Wilson, we were lured through scarlet gates into the majestic Bebeah, one of the original estates established in 1880. Since 1993 the current owner, an interior designer, has not only substantially expanded the extent of the garden to cover an impressive 12 acres, but has also managed to successfully introduce a distinctive Japanese influence into what was a traditional English picturesque garden. The impressive 10,000 additional azaleas that have been planted since Barry Byrne became proprietor have no doubt assisted with this subtle transformation!*
For those with horticultural expertise, a number of rare botanical specimens that preside in this garden including a scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and some frost resistant palms, Butia capitata and Trachycarpus forunei from Brazil and China respectively, would no doubt be of great interest.* To gardening novices such as myself and my two energetic kids though, it was just a delightful garden to explore. My advice this spring, pack a picnic and prepare to be seduced by the timeless beauty of Mt Wilson.
* All historical and botanical information about Bebeah sourced from ‘A Passion for Place: Gardens of the Blue Mountains’ by Alison Halliday & Joanne Hambrett – a fabulous gift from my family intended to inspire me to weed our own modest cool climate garden!
WORDS AND IMAGES by LIBBY SULLIVAN