The garden at Bolobek is considered by many to be one of the finest in Australia. It is certainly one of the most written about and photographed private gardens in this country, most recently featuring on Gardening Australia and Abode TVs Best Gardens Australia.
Bolobek is approximately 450 metres above sea level and in a normal year has rainfall of around 750 mm. The soil is grey loam on a clay base with a tendency towards acidity. The inner garden is approximately 2.5 hectares while the outer garden or ‘the Park’ covers a slightly larger area.
During the winter there are frequent frosts and very occasionally a flurry of snow. Temperatures range over the year from below zero in winter to over 40 degrees Celsius in mid to late summer. Our prevailing wind is from the north-west and can wreak havoc.
The garden was laid out in the early 1900’s by Mildred and Oswald Syme. By all accounts Mrs Syme was a very keen gardener and many of the trees and shrubs that were planted during her tenure survive today as does what we believe to be her original planting plan.
The Symes showed much forethought in securing the water for the stock and the garden by building a significant dam at one end of the property. Water reticulates by gravity to a tank adjacent to the garden and from there around the property to the stock troughs and the garden.
Bolobek was sold by the Symes in the late 1960’s to Sir Robert and Lady Law-Smith. Following the sale the garden underwent a period of rejuvenation and softening of the original planting scheme. The original large Edwardian house was bulldozed to make way for a smaller, single story house designed by Phyllis and John Murphy which, with its large windows that give directly onto the garden, serves to bring the garden right up to and almost into the house.
Under the stewardship of Joan Law Smith the garden at Bolobek was an inspiration to all who visited including royalty and many international dignitaries. Lady Law-Smith’s plantings were restrained in number and predominantly white in colour and were imbued with a sophistication and subtlety.
The following quote is from the Victorian Heritage Register: “Bolobek is of aesthetic, architectural historic and horticultural importance to the State of Victoria. Bolobek is of outstanding aesthetic importance for its quality design, artistry and plantsmanship, the creation of garden spaces and views and the combination of plant forms with an emphasis on foliage and white flowers and bark.
Bolobek is of historic significance as an outstanding example of a modern formal garden style incorporating geometrically shaped compartments, axial paths with terminal features and for the axial associations with the house and room plan. The garden is important for demonstrating a creative design style as an overlay on an earlier garden layout”.
Brigid and Hugh Robertson who bought Bolobek in 2006 have undertaken to preserve and enhance 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. They include replacing the antiquated watering system; replacing the crab apple walk and the Lombardy Poplar walk; repaving and re-gravelling paths, planting much of the middle story of the garden that had been lost during a period of neglect in the late nineties and replanting much of the orchard. Most recently the Robertsons have designed and planted a large picking and vegetable garden immediately adjacent to site of the original Syme vegetable garden.
Tours of the garden are available strictly by appointment.