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I’m back home now. Yesterday I was working on my deck and kept looking over in the direction of Birrarung, wistfully wondering if the frogs were missing me as much as I was missing them.  I went to life drawing at Dunmoochin on Tuesday night only to find that the new artist in residence there, Mirranda Burton, had a three month residency at Birrarung last year. That was the end of life drawing for me for the night, I just wanted to talk about Birrarung and hear her stories and how much she loved it all too.  Needless to say I’ve had trouble readjusting to being back home.

I’ve stored material for two more blogs from my blissful time at Birrarung.  It’s been a blessing to do a bit of catchup this week as it’s meant I could keep one foot over on the other side of the Yarra.  So here’s the second last post generated during my residency.

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The hospitality of local people continues to gob smack me. Gwen Ford opened her garden, her home and, just quietly, her cookie tin for me last Saturday.  It was raining when I arrived so we settled into her living room with a pot of tea and the aforementioned cookie tin for some ‘serious’ chatting before the sun came out and a wander around her lovely garden, “Fulling”, was possible. Gwen’s late husband, the legendary Gordon Ford, was responsible for the original design of the garden. It’s typical of his naturalistic style. Walkways, giant rocks and ponds blend perfectly with their surroundings and appear to be exactly where nature intended them to be. Giant gum trees create a majestic “been there forever” upper storey.

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Accents throughout, are provided by unique metal garden lights, handmade nearby at Montsalvat..

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Mandala made by Montsalvat sculptor, the late Matcham Skipper.

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The amount of upkeep in a garden of this type is enormous.  As we wandered around, Gwen was busy picking up small branches that had fallen on the ground and pulling weeds from the pathways.  She pretty much single handedly maintains the garden these days.  It’s a great tribute to her determination to maintain Gordon’s legacy.

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Garden lovers from around the world please take note.  Nestled into the garden at “Fulling” are two Bed and Breakfasts known collectively as the Eltham Garden Retreat. A stay is the perfect way to settle into this magnificent garden environment and incorporate some visits to the surrounding galleries at Montsalvat, Heide Museum of Modern Art and Tarrawarra Museum of Art.  Another art lover’s dream holiday would be a stay at the Eltham Garden Retreat during the Nillumbik Artist’s Open Studio’s Program.  All of the studios are closeby.  I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the weekend.  Beautiful garden, accomodation with loads of character and if the cookie tin is anything to go by, Gwen Ford will look after you like one of the family. These three connected circular buildings (below) are used as one of the Bed and Breakfasts. Bookings are essential, see the website for details.

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Yesterday I mentioned my admiration for our ability to enhance our environment.  “Fulling” is a perfect example of that enhancement.  Sublime is the word that comes to mind.

While at Birrarung I read a book written by Gordon Ford with Gwen, titled “Gordon Ford The Natural Australian Garden”. In her prologue to the book Morag Fraser has this to say about Gordon’s work.

“…So perhaps what he has done in his lifetime of landscaping is to teach a language, to sharpen perceptions of the connection between the particular colour of the earth and the exact texture of the natural leaf and grass cover.”

“Fulling” is open to the public every year as part of the Open Garden Scheme.

You will find “Fulling” and the Eltham Garden Retreat at 70 John Street, Eltham.