Glen Harrow Garden

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In the Dandenongs near Melbourne is a magical garden in which you almost expect to see the fairies appear. The garden is over 100 years old.

Garden history

This garden was established in the 1870s by Thomas and John Cole, pioneering nurserymen who are reported to have used Glen Harrow as an experimental station for imported species of plants and trees including the giant or Himalayan lily. Hundreds of these lilies have naturalised throughout the garden.

Marg and Lou Hesterman and their two daughters, Holly and Bridie, moved into Glen Harrow eight years ago. Marg discovered the property by accident while looking for old building materials for a house they were restoring at Monbulk.

The National Trust has classified some of the trees on the 8 hectare (20 acre) property, including:

  • Chinquapin (Castanopsis cuspidata)
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Algerian or canary oak (Quercus canariensis)
  • Big treeor Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Giant lily

Although the giant lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum,has been in the garden at Glen Harrow for some 100 years it is a relative newcomer to Australian gardens at large. Those who grow the plant will discover that it is one that brings a few surprises.

This lily was imported by the Cole family and was later spread around the garden by the Lipscombe sisters, daughters of the property’s next owner. The sisters would collect the seed as the pods opened and establish them around the extensive garden.

Plant details

Botanic name: Cardiocrinum giganteum
Common name:
giant lily (also known as Himalayan lily)

Description: The genus name Cardiocrinumcomes from the heart shaped leaves (kardio = heart, krinon = a lily). Tall growing lily with a 3-4m (10-13′) stem which can be covered with up to 22 trumpet-shaped flowers from late November to Christmas. These are a cream to pale green colour with a maroon stripe inside and are heavily scented. The perfume pervades the night air and is reminiscent of gardenia with a hint of nutmeg. Once the main plant flowers it dies but younger plants which grow from the base will flower over subsequent years.

Climate: This plant is native to the Himalayas, north west Burma and south west China so prefers the cooler mountain climates of southern Australia

Propagation:The brown seed pods contain hundreds of wafer-thin seeds which are spread by the wind. The seeds will grow but may take five to seven years to flower. It is thought that seed grown plants may be more vigorous than those grown from daughter bulbs, which can take between three and five years to flower.

Availability: Cardiocrinum giganteummay be found at the following stockists:

Florilegia Nursery, 326 Mt Macedon Road, Mt Macedon, VIC, 3441. Phone (03) 5426 4144. Fax (03) 5426 1735. Four year old plants are available in 15cm (6″) pots for $12.60.

Kesswald Park Nursery, Seamer Road, Monbulk, VIC, 3793. Phone: (03) 9756 6832. Fax: (03) 9752 1999. This nursery has a mail order service and is available to visitors by appointment only. Bulbs will be sent in damp wood shavings from June to August and cost $15 per bulb. Please note: these are seedlings and will take several years to flower.

Woodbank Nursery, 2040 Huon Road, Longley, TAS, 7150. Phone/fax: (03) 6239 6452. Mail order service available. Plants will not flower for several years.
Yamina Rare Plants, 25 Moores Road, Monbulk, VIC, 3793. Phone: (03) 9756 6335. Fax: (03) 9752 0308. and email: This nursery will courier plants but have a minimum order requirement. Phone the nursery for further details. Around $15 for a 17cm (7″) pot.

Country cottages

Visitors can now experience the magic first hand by staying in one of the bed and breakfast cottages which help fund the garden restoration. Each cottage is classified by the National Trust and is completely self contained with spa, open fireplace and private balcony overlooking the garden, as well as other modern conveniences. Rates begin at $145 per double per night and includes a full breakfast.

For further information about the garden or for cottage bookings contact:

Glen Harrow Garden
Old Monbulk Road
Belgrave VIC 3160
Phone: (03) 9754 3232. Fax: (03) 9754 3111