the garden & its story
Merribee’s garden spans seven acres of sensory splendour. Plant life flourishes in this coastal land, which was first settled in the 1820's as part of Alexander’s Berry’s 100-square mile estate. Since purchasing what was essentially dairy pastureland with an old farm cottage, a dilapidated grain silo and a couple of dilapidated buildings on it in 2000, Lucy and Richard Marshall (along with early help in 2001-2006 from Horticulturalist/Garden Designer James Thompson) have slowly fashioned this plot into an ornate garden with numerous "botanical rooms".
The botanical rooms include The Secret Garden, The Parterre Garden, The Bay Room, The Italian Garden, The Edible Garden, Apothecary Gardens modelled on 7th Century Monastic and 12th Century Medieval designs and plantings, The Elizabethan Lover's Knot Garden, The Heritage Rose Garden and Formal Rose Garden and the Lavender Paddock where 1,000 lavender bushes transport visitors to the fields of Provence in France.
There are gardens filled with whimsical topiary plantings and others with thousands of buxus bushes which have formed elegant hedged patterns over the years and which can be viewed from climbing up to a viewing pavilion.
One of the masterpieces at Merribee is undoubtedly the 'Dordogne Garden' which is loosely inspired by the Gardens of Marqueyssac in the Dordogne region of France. Continuously hedged by Merribee's gardeners it has evolved over the years to become quite an attraction.
Lucy has ensured that fragrance is central to so many of the plantings – and fragrances waft from every corner of the garden. No rose is allowed at Merribee unless it has a scent, the lavender paddock fills with its purple haze of lavender aroma every year (as does the lavender "cloud" above Merribee as we distil the oil very early in January each year) and bay trees, citrus groves, curry bushes, ginger plants and more all lend a wonderful array of smells into the garden. The birdlife is as vibrant as the garden’s rainbow palette and the edible fruits range from guava, bananas, quinces, kaffir limes, pink grapefruits and apple to pomegranate and passionfruit. We even have coffee and tea bushes in our edible garden!
Merribee is also home to beehives that yield the sweetest honey.
Merribee has entertained thousands of guests since it began hosting weddings over 16 years ago, and the estate also offers guests the opportunity to hire specifically designed sections of the property for private parties and naming ceremonies.
In 2009 the old grain silo (The Silo) was converted into romantic accommodation for two. The Silo has four floors, including a master bedroom, and look-out floor which gives uninterrupted 360 degree views of the dairy lands which surround Merribee.
In 2013 we converted an old shed into a commercial kitchen for functions and events and in 2015, we built our Barn, with room to seat up to 140 guests.
In 2016 to early 2017 James Thompson re-joined our team to design the additional gardens at Merribee. In addition to restoring and reinvigorating our extensive garden rooms, James introduced more points of interest to the garden.
In 2017 we restored a pioneer's cottage which is now the 'Mayfield Cottage' overlooking the lavender field. It hosts wedding ceremonies and is the current site of our Little Store - the pop-up shop on Open Days and our entrance point to the property.
During the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, Richard lifted 546 buxus bushes and replanted them into the shape of a 500 year-old Elizabethan knot garden plan. This is now in the process of being 'settled in', being hedged and its pattern being pruned carefully into the correct shape. A staircase to a viewing platform was built in the winter of 2021 to allow visitors to look down onto the pattern.
In 2020 and 2021 the Heritage Rose Garden was further developed and it now boasts 100 different Species and old Cultivated roses, including Ancient Damasks and Gallicas, Centifolias, Moss and Albas. It holds the four "stud" Chinensis roses, and the first yellow rose brought to the West in 1589. With various hybridised Portlands, Bourbons, Teas and others, it aims to tell the story of the Evolution of the Rose from Ancient times to the Modern English rose of David Austin. It also showcases some of the first Species rose bushes ever brought to Australia and planted in the Colony of New South Wales.
In 2021, two Apothecary Gardens, including a 7th Century one and a Medieval one, were been designed, and planted to be as authentic as possible in their offering of herbs and vegetables. A Herbaceous Flower Garden was planted in 2021 and was fully flowering by January 2022.
In May 2022, Merribee was delighted to host The Inaugural Australian Topiary and Hedging Festival in celebration of World Topiary Day.
Merribee is a real labour of love! A team of 5 full & part time gardeners work closely with Lucy and Richard in realizing the dreams and vision they have for the garden for everyone to enjoy.
2023 has seen the addition of more accommodation added to the Garden.
We welcome the public to visit us during Open Days and Festivals. Sign up to our newsletter or visit our Calendar & Tickets page for information on upcoming events.
Merribee is home to approximately 600 rose bushes. This includes 130 species and cultivars. We have 4 areas of Merribee devoted to roses: The Heritage Garden, The Formal Rose Garden, and our 2 picking gardens where we grow cut flowers which we sell to the public on our Open Days.
The Heritage Rose Garden traces the History and Evolution of the Rose from Ancient and Medieval "Old Roses" (our oldest rose has been in continuous cultivation for approximately 4,500 years!) through the process of hybridisation with Chinensis roses, through the establishment of new classes of roses ad finally to the development of the English Rose class of David Austin. (Lucy Marshall, Owner of Merribee provides private tours of the Heritage Rose Garden in early Spring.)
The Formal Rose Garden has long rows of roses planted down an "aisle" often used for weddings. Souvenir de la Malmaison, The Children's Rose, Duchesse de Brabant, Charles de Gaulle, Heritage, Maman Cochet and Deane Ross make for a heady and ever-flowering display.
Roses can be purchased in our Little Store during Open Days.
BUXUS & TOPIARY
Merribee is gaining quite a reputation for its Topiary and Hedging! With over 10,000 buxus (boxwood) plants all clipped and shaped either into straight hedges or more exotic curved and organic forms, or even animals, Paul Baker our Master of Hedging and Topiary does very little else but clip buxus at Merribee!
One of the masterpieces at Merribee is undoubtedly the 'Dordogne Garden' which is loosely inspired by the Gardens of Marqueyssac in the Dordogne region of France.
Continuously hedged by Merribee's gardeners it has evolved over the years to become quite an attraction. We were delighted to host the Inaugural Australian Topiary and Hedging Festival in May 2022, in celebration of World Topiary Day.
For at least 7 years now, we have had a paddock filled with 1000 lavender bushes and hosted a most successful Lavender Festival two years now in a row.
Sadly, however, with the property receiving approximately 4 metres of rain in total in 2022, our Lavender Paddock just couldn’t absorb all the water. It was replanted in August 2022 and now finally in November 2023 we will see fresh purple blooms. We look forward very much to holding the Lavender Festival again in December 2023 and January 2024.