We went for a little walk up in the gardens of the Dandenongs, driving through the cool air of Sassafras and its pretty tourist strip into Olinda. We stopped at Cloudehill, a remarkable formal garden created by Jeremy Francis, celebrating its 20th year (though its history goes back to the 1890s). Adult entry $7.50.

When we came last spring it was brimming with colour; at this late end of winter its handsome bones are showing and they hold up very well with its many paths and vistas. But you can feel spring leaking through — some of the daffodils have popped up and there is a delicate field of bluebells. And the hellebores are in full blossom including a spectacular variety of black (too hard to photograph).

Tea and scones

We had scones and tea at the Olinda Tea House; combo at $14. Not too cheap but exactly what you want in that time and place and temperature — those “lashings” of cream and raspberry jam. These scones were not the airy, flour-dusty, just moist perfection of old style home cookery (Paul, that’s yours), but they were more than passable.

The National Rhododendron Gardens

I love the look of rhododendrons, and the Gardens‘ spring display is famous for its blaze of reds and pinks and creams. For now the early blooms are a promise of the coming splendour, and there are a couple of charming lakes to stop by in its 2.5km expanse. We’ve promised ourselves to return in a month for the full glory (free entry), when Constant Gardener has also agreed to drop in on the deeply eccentric Willam Ricketts Sanctuary — after many years I’m curious to revisit its outsider visions of the Aboriginal world; it’s bound to be profoundly unsettling.





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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey