Milton Park Gardens | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Milton Park Gardens

Item details

Name of item: Milton Park Gardens
Type of item: Complex / Group
Location: Lat: 0 Long: 0
Primary address: Horderns Road, Bowral, NSW 2576
Local govt. area: Wingecarribee
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Horderns RoadBowralWingecarribee  Primary Address
5km along Kangaloon Rd East of BowralEast BowralWingecarribee  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Milton Park gardens are directly associated with the Hordern family and the use of the property as a rural retreat. In terms of size and planting, they are unmatched by the other country houses in the Southern Highlands. They are significant for the extensive and excellent use of many exotic plant species, particularly Rhododendrons. The selection of species used in the garden displays innovation horticulturally as many species were planted for the first time in the region at Milton Park. The weeping Beeches are believed to be the first planted in Australia. Although the gardens have evolved over a period of time, much of the 1930s layout remains intact and of significance through these design attributes. This garden is highly regarded by the garden community in the State and enjoyed by visitors to the hotel.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Physical description: A detailed description of the gardens follows. It has been adapted from "Gardens of the Southern Highlands" (pp.62-65).
Milton Park is approached along Hordern's Rd, a turning off the main Kangaloon Road running eastwards from Bowral. As the road starts to rise it is flanked on either side by tall eucalypts until on turning left through the new main entrance gate and past the entrance lodge, the planting changes dramatically to tall sombre PINUS RADIATA along the ridgeline. The road takes one past the old stable block, to the left of which, across a small area of lawn, is the entrance to the main garden.
The driveway up to the house is flanked with CORNUS FLORIDA, rhododendrons and camellias. On the lawn to the right are the two weeping beeches while to the left a short flight of stone steps leads to the swimming pool and tennis court with walls of stone from a barn at nearby Comerton Park, both of which are set against a backdrop of tall rhododendrons. The climbing roses around the tennis court have been trained into a series of elaborate hoops.
In front of the house a porte-cochere straddles the driveway, and is covered with an unusually large-leaved form of the Canary Island Ivy, HEDERA CANARIENSIS "Variegata". From the porte-cochere a central path leads to a small pool, by the side of which are planted standard wistarias. The two bronze cranes from Japan which stood in the pool deteriorated and have now been replaced by two similar ones.
Along the drive past the porte-cochere to the right is a stone flagged path which is the start of a circulatory walk of the garden. This area is heavily planted with evergreen azaleas, Japanese maples, AUCUBA JAPONICA and a variety of conifers. It contains a pool, now at waist height at the far side of which is a magnificent waterfall. This pool, a comparatively recent introduction, is planted with water lilies and Japanese iris, and around its edges are Japanese maples, wistaria and a Taxodium.
On the path past the waterfall pool is a flight of stone steps which leads up to the rose parterre. This in turn is fronted by a stone balustrade that sits on top of a massive retaining wall of local sandstone. The rose beds are enclosed by box hedges, now some 75 cm high and separated by gravel paths. Topiary birds complete the scene.
On the lower level is a long border, at the back of which is the stone retaining wall and in front of it, a tall cypress hedge. This border has been planted mainly for spring effect, with a variety of low growing perennials and some shrubs. Espaliered fruit trees are trained against the wall. This wall is slightly curved, so that the eye is drawn along its length to a stone arch at the far end.
Through this arch a low stone wall separates the garden from a paddock, which is entered through double iron gates and which in spring is a mass of bluebells. Leading down to this gate is a wistaria covered pergola, underplanted on one side with epimediums and on the other with ferns. On either side of this pergola is a small paved garden with a pool. The one to the right is a sunken garden in the centre of which is an urn-shaped pool. The whole is enclosed with tall Lawson Cypress. To the left of the pergola is a raised pool made from a single block of sandstone weighing several tons. In this pool a stone figure of a dwarf is about to belay a frog with his stick; the frog, in turn, spits water in the dwarf's face. These two areas have a backdrop of more rhododendrons and camellias.
Another flight of stone steps leads to an area of lawn, in each corner of which is an English ash, FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR, and in the centre a huge spreading Tulip Tree, LIRIODENDRON TULIPIFERUM, around the base of which is a white-painted wooden seat.
Further to the left are horseshoe-shaped steps leading down to the new Conference Centre, while continuing back along these steps is a meandering path through rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas. Further to the left are huge clumps of agapanthus while the path itself is bordered with hundreds of hellebores. Off this path is another lawn, along one side of which is another long border of low growing perennials.
Further information: The gardens occupy a magnificent site on a hill slope of rich volcanic soils which have promoted a lush and beautiful cool climate garden. The site has commanding views of the surrounding pastures and rolling wooded hills. Extensive tree planting surrounds the main house gardens and the entrance driveway from Horderns Rd. The garden, which covers 8 acres, contains large scale plantings which include around 10,000 trees, shrubs, plants; a forest of 5,000 cypresses and pines; at least 2,000,000 bulbs accompanied by 1,000,000 forget-me nots; more than 5,000 maples; several hundred rhododendron and camellia; nearly 400 metres of box hedge surrounding 400 rose bushes; and an avenue of elms. There are also many rare individual plant specimens such as excellent examples of cedrus deodara, liriodendron, faxinus and lilmus. Notable specimens on the terrace below the house include a central crowned liriodendron and 4 pollarded fraxinus surrounded by rhododendron beds, the cedrus immediately outside the entrance and the weeping beeches adjacent. The garden is best described as a series of individual spaces divided by mature bed plantings of acer, rhododendron and cornus, or stone wall and paved stone pathways that snake through the ground under the mature cedars, cupressus and pinus. The use of local stone in the walls and pathways lend a strong natural character to the largely exotic garden. Throughout the garden objects such as statues and urns are commonly used. All beds have strong edge definition against the lawn areas which are quite extensive. The use of water is also significant with a number of water features throughout the site.


Historical notes: The gardens today are largely the result of the redesigning activity of Mary
Hordern during the 1930's. Initially, the garden laid out in front of the
house was typically Edwardian with formal geometric beds and low clipped
hedges, a series of garden rooms with carefully controlled vistas leading to
various formal features.
While many of these design elements were subsequently changed, the tree and
shrub selection and planting program undertaken in those early years by Tony,
gives today's garden much of its beauty, interest and unique quality.
Tony Hordern travelled extensively and had the means, interest, knowledge,
advice and contacts to collect many specimens either rare or unknown in
Australia at the time. They included oaks, elms, beeches, conifers, maples
and the rhododendron cultivars for which the garden is famous. The pair of
great weeping beeches on the lawn near the house are believed to be the first
planted in Australia. The vast Tulip tree with its circular white seat is
famous throughout Australia, having recently featured in advertisements
promoting NSW.
Mary Hordern saw the garden in a broader context in which the formalised
compartments and rigid delineation of features were out of place. She removed
beds and low hedges and redesigned the lawns into a series of gentle terraces
culminating in the rose garden. A swimming pool adjacent to the existing
tennis court on the east side of the house, was added at the same time, and
the tennis court surrounds were planted with espaliered climbing roses. She
continued to import trees and shrubs, especially rhododendrons, and added a
number of features including pools, pergolas and walks.
This programme of improvement came to a halt with the outbreak of World War
II, during which much of the available ground had to be used for the
production of vegetables. After the war the garden was carefully restored and
was opened to the public for the first time in 1948. It continued to be
immaculately maintained after Mrs Hordern's death, first by the King Ranch
Company of Texas which owned the property from 1960 to 1976, and then by Mrs
Hordern's daughter, Mrs Edwina Baillieu and her husband. The Milton Park
garden was opened each year as part of the Bowral Tulip Time Festival, the
proceeds being donated to the Bowral Womens' Hospital Auxillary. But by 1984
the viability of the estate as an agricultural holding was questionable and
the farm was subdivided into 50-hectare lots. However, some 150 hectares,
including the house and garden, the original home farm, cottages and
outbuildings were purchased by Drs Ron White and John Cooper keeping the main
hillside areas as a unit.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
This item is assessed as historically significant statewide.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
This item is assessed as aesthetically significant statewide.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
This item is assessed as socially significant regionally.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
This item is assessed as scientifically significant statewide.
SHR Criteria f)
This item is assessed as scientifically rare statewide.
SHR Criteria g)
This item is assessed as socially representative regionally.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanWLEP 2010I33116 Jun 10   
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed  12 Jan 90 007288
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Wingecarribee Heritage Study1991WI0331JRC Planning Services  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Graphic  Hordern L., 'Children of One Family', Retford Press
Graphic  Tanner H., 'The Great Gardens of Australia', MacMillan
Graphic  Professor Michael McCarthy, 'Great Gardens', Wattle Books
Graphic  Cavanough J., et al., 'Gardens of the Southern Highlands'

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2680331

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