A day spent in Bungendore is a country treat and, on the weekend of 23-24 November, four village residents will be opening their garden gates to visitors for Open Gardens Canberra. Last Wednesday I explored two of them, looked over the fence at another and popped into one by lucky chance.
The front garden of the 1880s house at Thornleigh is a tapestry of colour and texture from desirable cottage garden spring flowers all just one year old. The owner, Anthea Thomson, and her partner Chris Walder bought Thornleigh in 2011, It had been built by the Rutledge family from Gidleigh as an outstation. Walder worked in Canberra and Thomson had retired from life in Sydney as a restaurateur and loved the feel of Bungendore with its strong artistic bent as she likes to sculpt in clay and wanted to set up a studio.
Anthea Thomson's family had owned a large heritage property near Camden of the same vintage as Thornleigh and the couple fell in love with it in a rundown state but with potential. The old parts of the home were restored and a local builder, Garry Fraser and local carpenter Mark Kilby developed an extension both areas were awarded for building and restoration by Palerang Council.
Former Bungendore pharmacist for 25 years, Kevin Jones, was returning to live in the village. He was interested in a new project so, last year, he became "the gardener", designing, planting and constructing a landscape to reflect the Colonial era. The north-facing front verandah is framed by an original Cecile Brunner rose and wisteria.
Behind the house is a walled secret garden in which a highlight is a still-fruiting 145-year-old mulberry tree which Anthea Thomson uses in a mulberry cake (recipe follows). She says so many locals talk of climbing that tree in their childhood to pick the fruit. Her sculptures are carefully placed among herbs including borage, old rosemary bushes and lavender, mint, Russian garlic, a border of huge vibrant poppies, and a muscatel grape vine which climbs to the top of an old water tank stand. There is a turn-of-the-century quince tree, plum and almond trees and Granny Smith apple.
The garden had to be a source of produce for home use so a "potager" that contains a wicking bed and a raised no-dig vegetable patch made from recycled apple boxes. There is a constant supply of their own lettuces, zucchini, rocket, spinach, chard and potatoes with tomatoes just planted. All vegetables and herbaceous plants come from local horticulturist Paul de Jong, known to Canberrans from our farmers' markets.
Kevin has developed two cow manure 45 gallon drums which make "tea" for the plants which is cured for three months to kill weed seeds. The cows live down the road. There is a compost system, a wood shed, a small greenhouse and a flourishing worm farm with a trolley and hose system for the worm tea which is diluted before use.
On the way I paused by Fieldstone and walked along the garden fence admiring the 1860 gneiss stone house, vast lawns and large old established trees. The garden has been landscaped over the past four years by the new owners and there is a fountain with weeping standard trees in a semi-formal side garden.
Details of the four open gardens in this column next Tuesday or see opengardenscanberra.org.au.
Mulberry yogurt cake
2 cups mulberries
1 tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
dash of vanilla essence
225g Greek yoghurt
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
Line a loaf tin with baking paper and preheat oven to 180C. Whisk sugar yoghurt oil, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Sift flour and baking powder and a pinch of salt together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. When ready, gently fold in the mulberries with a wooden spoon. Bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
(Sometimes Thomson picks lavender in flower and grinds it into the sugar before it is whisked with the other ingredients, or she makes a lemon glaze with lavender, lemon juice and icing sugar whisked together and drizzled on top of the cake.)