Astolat is an unexpected gem hidden behind a screen of plants on busy Riversdale Road. The elegant and beautifully maintained two-acre garden surrounds an impressive Italianate Victorian mansion, providing a rare glimpse of life in gracious nineteenth-century Melbourne. Built around 1883, its name deriving from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, the house is typical of late nineteenth century Italianate architecture of upper middle class Melbourne with its asymmetrical building form, return cast iron verandah, refined cement render detailing, intact fenestration, chimneys and slate roof.
The garden was developed soon after the completion of the mansion and is recognised as a typical nineteenth century suburban villa garden. It features an oval lawn formed by the carriage drive, a tennis court with a pavilion built in 1890, the elaborate timber picket fence and well-established tree and shrub species of the era. In 1985 new owners bought the estate and carried out major restoration of the residence and gardens. Australian native species were introduced, and many tree ‘weed species’ were allowed to flourish. Structural additions and additional buildings at the rear of the mansion diverted from the original design and changed the Victorian feel of the garden.
In 1995 the present owners bought the property and slowly proceeded to rejuvenate the garden, returning it to its original Victorian glory. This included the creation of seven specific themes: a fern garden, tropical garden, cherry walk, woodland garden, hot perennial border, grey border, and a winter border. The themed gardens help generate interest throughout the year from texture, form and colour and act like ‘rooms’, encouraging you to adventure further to see what’s around the next corner. A tree replacement program has been implemented, replacing former inappropriate trees with species of the Victorian era. Together with the significant historic trees and unusual species, richly planted borders of shrubs and perennials flank generous lawns.
Where: 630 Riversdale Road, Camberwell
When: Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 October, 10am–4:30pm
Entry Fees: Open Gardens Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation which receives 50% of entry fees ($10 per adult) to cover administrative costs. Students are usually $5 and children under 18 are free. Garden owners keep half the fee but frequently donate all or part of it to a charity.
OGV asks visitors to observe the following courtesies: Do not remove any part of a plant. Keep to paths to avoid trampling on plants. Take away anything you bring with you and do not litter. Dogs (except Guide/mobility dogs) are not allowed in the gardens.