Around the time I visited the garden (see Canberra Organic, Winter 2023), I delved into its name and history. I found that St Erth was an Irishman who lived some one thousand seven hundred years ago from 424-514, was baptised by the aged St Patrick and became Bishop of Slane. He crossed to Cornwall, where he and his brothers (St la and St Uny) established churches, and the village of St Erth near St Ives dates back to this time.

The stone cottage in the Garden of St Erth was named in 1854 by the Cornish stonemason Matthew Rogers, in remembrance of his Cornish birthplace. Initially pursuing gold near Mount Blackwood, he later decided to remain in the area, extended the cottage and set up a post office and store. At that time Blackwood was a bustling town of 13,000 people: today it is home to fewer than 400.

I learnt that the garden was not really taken in hand until 1967 when the Garnet family, especially Tommy Garnet, put their passion into it. Tommy was not only a former Headmaster of Geelong Grammar, but also a passionate plantsman and ornithologist. As Garden Editor of The Age newspaper, he used the garden to acclimatise many rare exotics. He created a garden of surprises that covers two and a half hectares, and his legacy continued when, after he and his wife Penny retired, The Diggers Club took it over in 1996. Then, in 2011, The Garden of St Erth and Heronswood were both donated to The Diggers Club, becoming the first organically certified gardens in Australia opened to the public.

Deborah Hamilton