Gardening is an age-old pursuit, but it became widely popular during the 19th century.
New technology combined with a burgeoning middle class and its urban lifestyle gave people the leisure time to tend to a garden. This was true of Great Britain and Europe, but also of Australian cities and towns.
For those who had prospered in their adopted land, a beautiful house and garden were silent symbols of success and status. Even photographs of modest cottages were proudly sent back ‘home’ to friends and family.
The ideal Victorian garden was neat and orderly. Sovereign Hill’s residential areas have several gardens, each contributing to our story of gold rush Ballarat.
The most decorative, and by far the most popular with visitors, is the garden surrounding the Bright View Cottage.
The original section of this neat weatherboard cottage was built in 1858. It stood at Greendale, near Ballarat, and was the home of well-off farmers. The Bright View garden is a stylish illustration of a gentrified rural lifestyle – a point emphasised by the coach house to one side of the garden.
The garden has a typical formal Victorian design. English box hedges define the geometric lines of a central parterre, with triangular beds featuring seasonal displays of annuals, perennials and bulbs. In the centre of the beds is a sundial used to tell the time. There is even a vegetable patch to one side of the cottage.
A typically English picket fence borders Bright View. At the gateway, visitors are greeted by a beautifully perfumed magnolia (Devoniensis) rose. They also several trees of note – a tall bunya-bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii), an empress tree (Paulownia), a stately red gum tree (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and a silk tassel bush (Garrya elliptica)
Bright View garden is the pride and joy of Cherrie Neale, our Head Horticulturalist, who is qualified in both aboriculture and horticulture. Before joining Sovereign Hill, Cherrie worked for ten years in some of Australia’s great 19th century estate gardens.
Working at Sovereign Hill allows Cherrie to combine her life-long passion with her love of sharing her garden story. Like the Victorians, she is fascinated by the adventures of the 19th century botanists who travelled far and returned with amazing new plants for education and display.
Cherrie manages a team of four gardeners across our entire 75-acre outdoor museum. Each team member looks after the gardens of the site. Their daily routine begins early in the morning by clipping hedges, clearing leaves and watering. Other important tasks include tree-felling, raking, brush cutting, weed poisoning and re-planting.
Preparation for seasonal planting is another constant, and is done three months ahead. In the hothouse, summer begins with planting seeds for autumn displays. Most of our plants are grown from seeds or cuttings. If large quanities are required or time is short, they are purchased locally.
Composting also takes place using a combination of food scraps from the cafes, green plant material, woodchips and manure.
So, the next time you visit Sovereign Hill, take a wonder through our Bright View gardens and marvel at the gorgeous displays and craftsmanship of our gardening team.
This article originally appeared in Sovereign Hill’s ‘Rush’ magazine, Issue 3