Bolobek is a unique working farm at the foot of the Macedon Ranges boasting a rich history, great quality beef and lamb and a glorious garden. Since 2006, the current owners, Brigid and Hugh Robertson have invested extraordinary passion and energy into the continuing renovation and rejuvenation of this magnificent property.
Bolobek is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as “being of aesthetic, architectural historic and horticultural importance to the State of Victoria”.
Bolobek is an aboriginal word meaning undulating. On old maps of the district, there is an area clearly marked as the Bolobek Swamp. The swamp provided a significant source of food for the local Aboriginal people until it was drained in the 19th century. Bolobek is the site of an axe-grinding rock used by members of the Wurundjeri people.
The Syme Family
The property now known as Bolobek was created when Oswald Syme, the youngest son of David Syme, founder of the Melbourne Age, purchased adjoining parcels of land between 1910 and 1914. These two former pastoral runs, Turitable and Woolling were originally settled around 1839. On the Woolling site, there are surviving pear trees that we estimate to be more than 130 years old.
It is understood that the Symes moved into the newly completed house at Bolobek on 13 January 1911. Oswald’s wife, Mildred was by all accounts a very keen gardener and is believed to be responsible for the layout of the original garden. Many of the trees and shrubs that were planted during her tenure survive today, as does what is believed to be her original planting plan.
The Syme family owned Bolobek for almost 60 years running beef and dairy cattle and sheep on the property. They provided employment for many local families and by all accounts were generous and kind employers. The Syme children and grandchildren and their friends enjoyed many holidays at Bolobek. The Symes were well known for their numerous charity events, and tennis and garden parties.
The Law-Smith Family
Robert and Joan Law-Smith purchased Bolobek in 1969. The Law-Smiths demolished the old house and many of the outbuildings, sitting the new, much smaller house in almost exactly the same position as the original Edwardian home. The new house, designed by Phyllis and John Murphy, has large windows that open directly onto the garden, bringing it right up and almost into the house.
The Law-Smiths continued to maintain the property as an agricultural enterprise.
Joan Law-Smith was a talented gardener, artist and writer. She had exceptional taste, admirable restraint and a preference for pastel colour schemes, which were reflected in her choice of plants.
Under the stewardship of Joan Law-Smith the garden at Bolobek became an inspiration to all who visited including royalty and many international dignitaries. Lady Law-Smith’s plantings were restrained in number, predominantly white in colour and were imbued with a sophistication and subtlety.
The Edgerton Family
The Law-Smiths sold Bolobek in the early 1990s after which time the property passed through a number of hands and approximately 150 acres was subdivided off the northwest corner to create a subdivision called Bolobek Lakes.
Greville and Jill Edgerton purchased the property in 2002. The Edgertons began a rescue operation of the garden and property, both of which had been neglected immediately prior to their ownership.
The Robertson Family
Brigid and Hugh Robertson purchased Bolobek in 2006 and have committed to preserving and enhancing the garden and property. The years from 2006 and 2008 were spent largely observing the garden during the various seasons. In 2008, at the peak of a long drought, the garden was opened for the first time in two decades for Open Gardens Australia, and over 6000 people came to visit.
Since 2008, many restoration works have been undertaken. Most recently, the Robertsons have designed and planted a large picking and vegetable garden immediately adjacent to site of the original Syme vegetable garden.
Thousands of trees have been planted on the property, and a significant project involving the clean-up, fencing and planting out of waterways has been undertaken in conjunction with Melbourne Water.
The Robertsons who both grew up on farms in the Macedon Ranges, run a self-replacing herd of Angus Cattle and a terminal flock of First X Ewes.
In 2013, Brigid and Hugh were approached by the Mt Macedon and District Horticultural Society to hold the Garden Lover’s Fair. This is now an annual event held on the first weekend of October, with more than 35 stallholders selling everything from rare plants to garden tools and other garden-related items.