The garden was laid out more than a decade ago by designer Paul Bangay as a series of well-defined spaces, each with its own mood. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth
Holly Kerr Forsyth celebrates the landscape and people of country Australia in her new book ‘Country Gardens, Country Hospitality’. In this extract she introduces us to the garden of Anna and Don Carrazza, local food legends on the Murray.
Spring arrives early in Mildura, the Victorian city that rests languidly on the banks of the Murray River. August days can rise to 22C, although nights can be cold and the dawn can bring frosts. The result is that gardeners in the area can have the best of both worlds — daffodils in spring and hibiscus through summer. By August the sweet peas are in full bloom; the wisteria bursts into flower in September; the scent of roses hovers in the air by mid-October.
BellaVista, Anna and Don Carrazza’s garden, hugs the river at Gol Gol, on the New South Wales side. It was laid out more than a decade ago to a plan prepared by landscaper Paul Bangay. The garden is a series of carefully defined spaces, each with its own character and mood. There are avenues of trees that provide dense shade in the hot, dry summers, flamboyant flower borders and a formal rose garden, all designed around a Mediterranean-style house on half a hectare of land.
The entrance to BellaVista leads beneath fastigiate pears to the rose garden, which is filled with David Austin roses and irises in complementary colours. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth
Bold cast-iron gates made by a local artist are flanked by groups of English and Chinese elms and by pin oaks, and lead into the garden. Twenty fastigiate pears, Pyrus calleryana ‘Capital’, line the drive. This cultivar grows in an upright form and colours to exciting purples and reds in autumn then bursts into clouds of white blossom in September.
To one side, a walled garden features perennial borders filled with stachys, dianthus, delphiniums and foxgloves. An avenue of thirty lindens (Tilia cordata), underplanted with thousands of King Alfred daffodils, leads you from this border to a vegetable garden, and on into the rose garden.
Double borders of perennials, including bearded irises, lead past walls covered in roses, including Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ on the left. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth
Located beyond a high wall, the rose garden is divided into eight sections, each enclosed in box and housing a collection of roses from the English breeder David Austin, mixed with Anna’s favourite hybrid teas, all in colour groupings. Hundreds of bearded irises, in tones that team perfectly with the roses, flower profusely after the frosty winters that they love.
In the bed of yellow David Austin roses ‘Graham Thomas’, the very vigorous, very fragrant ‘Jude the Obscure’, and ‘Golden Celebration’ bloom with the modern, apricot-coloured ‘Just Joey’ and the temperamental but fascinating ‘Julia’s Rose’, the colour of antiqued silk. The entire garden is enclosed by hedges of x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Leighton’s Green’, which are pruned twice each year.
Oriental poppies team with the Mediterranean colors of the house. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth
In Mildura the name Carazza is synonymous with the good life, and with good food. Margot Mills, another of the area’s great gardeners, recalls that it was Don who brought Italian coffee culture to the country town. She remembers Don and Anna’s first cafe, the Mary Elizabeth, and the ‘proper coffee’ that Don served there. ‘It was a great meeting point. Anna cooked. You would get the most wonderful pastas. Simple, inexpensive and the real thing.’
The tradition continues with Don and Anna’s son-in-law Stefano de Pieri, whose marvellous eponymous restaurant is located in the Grand Hotel on Feast Street, lately with chef Jim McDougall installed. Stefano’s Bakery at 27 Deakin Street remains a meeting — and talking — point. Anna shared several of her family’s favourite recipes with me, ‘served again and again,’ she tells me, ‘to nourish and sustain the most important people in my world’.