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A VERY SPECIAL GARDEN – NATIONAL TRUST 1991

The garden of Ard Choille both botanically and historically is one of the best of the renowned Mt Macedon gardens, which as a group represent one of the most important and significant collections of Nineteenth Century gardens in Australia.

Ard Choille is unusual in the context of Mount Macedon gardens for its siting on the Northern, rather than the Southern slopes of Mt Macedon. Ard Choille, was described by the National Trust of victoria as one of the 12 outstanding gardens of Mt Macedon, and amongst these select gardens Ard Choille is especially noted as being of “exceptional interest".

Ard Choille captures the feel of a gracious and inspirational 19th century garden and has taken full advantage of the unique cool climate with a huge array of exotic trees and shrubs. What you can expect to see in a stroll through its majesty are Birches, Beeches, Elms, Oaks, Firs, Lindens, Rowans, Dogwoods, Conifers and numerous tree ferns. There are also masses of rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and thousands of daffodil bulbs.

The garden includes a particularly fine and rare 19th Century metal shade house, which is individually classified by the National Trust and is still used today.

Ard Choille was the creation of William Macgregor, a Scotsman who made Australia his home in 1877. A direct descendant of the famous Rob Roy Macgregor, he was evidently proud of his heritage. ‘Ard Choille’ was the slogan or the war cry of the Macgregor clan meaning ‘High Wood’ and referred to a secret clan meeting place.

In the mid 1880’s Macgregor purchased a large parcel of land on the Northern slopes of Mt Macedon and spent large sums of money recreating the Scottish hills where his boyhood had been spent. His beloved Ard Choille was carved out of the Australian bush and 130 years on we enjoy the magnificence of the trees he had planted then.

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A VERY SPECIAL GARDEN – NATIONAL TRUST 1991

The garden of Ard Choille both botanically and historically is one of the best of the renowned Mt Macedon gardens, which as a group represent one of the most important and significant collections of Nineteenth Century gardens in Australia.

Ard Choille is unusual in the context of Mount Macedon gardens for its siting on the Northern, rather than the Southern slopes of Mt Macedon. Ard Choille, was described by the National Trust of victoria as one of the 12 outstanding gardens of Mt Macedon, and amongst these select gardens Ard Choille is especially noted as being of “exceptional interest".

Ard Choille captures the feel of a gracious and inspirational 19th century garden and has taken full advantage of the unique cool climate with a huge array of exotic trees and shrubs. What you can expect to see in a stroll through its majesty are Birches, Beeches, Elms, Oaks, Firs, Lindens, Rowans, Dogwoods, Conifers and numerous tree ferns. There are also masses of rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and thousands of daffodil bulbs.

The garden includes a particularly fine and rare 19th Century metal shade house, which is individually classified by the National Trust and is still used today.

Ard Choille was the creation of William Macgregor, a Scotsman who made Australia his home in 1877. A direct descendant of the famous Rob Roy Macgregor, he was evidently proud of his heritage. ‘Ard Choille’ was the slogan or the war cry of the Macgregor clan meaning ‘High Wood’ and referred to a secret clan meeting place.

In the mid 1880’s Macgregor purchased a large parcel of land on the Northern slopes of Mt Macedon and spent large sums of money recreating the Scottish hills where his boyhood had been spent. His beloved Ard Choille was carved out of the Australian bush and 130 years on we enjoy the magnificence of the trees he had planted then.

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WELL DESCRIBED BY JOHN HOGARTH IN ‘ROB ROY LIVED AGAIN IN A MACEDON GARDEN’ IN JUNE 1939…

This, one of the largest and most beautiful gardens in Victoria is practically unknown. It is a hidden garden, tucked away in a fold of the hills, so that you can see it neither from above or below.

Groves of thickets of firs, pines, maples and oaks, surround the lakes. Under the wide branches of the trees, tall and spreading as 50 years in a congenial climate and a rich soil can make them, there are cool dim places where the sun never shines, and thickets of saplings which all day the sun dapples and etches in the very likeness of fairyland.

The lakes and ponds lie in a chain along a deep gully, which in a normal season has acres of water lilies which float in the lakes while frogs croak lazily in the ponds, a cool drowsy happy place on a hot summer day.

What is the history of this garden, a garden which would have delighted the heart of Shelley?

Macgregor’s devotion to the highlands, the home of his people, and his devotion to his ancestor Rob Roy the most feared of the great broad swordsmen of the clan Macgregor. Proud of his high place in the genealogy of his clan, he decided to create a property worthy even to the miniature Highland lakes of great clansmen.

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WELL DESCRIBED BY JOHN HOGARTH IN ‘ROB ROY LIVED AGAIN IN A MACEDON GARDEN’ IN JUNE 1939…

This, one of the largest and most beautiful gardens in Victoria is practically unknown. It is a hidden garden, tucked away in a fold of the hills, so that you can see it neither from above or below.

Groves of thickets of firs, pines, maples and oaks, surround the lakes. Under the wide branches of the trees, tall and spreading as 50 years in a congenial climate and a rich soil can make them, there are cool dim places where the sun never shines, and thickets of saplings which all day the sun dapples and etches in the very likeness of fairyland.

The lakes and ponds lie in a chain along a deep gully, which in a normal season has acres of water lilies which float in the lakes while frogs croak lazily in the ponds, a cool drowsy happy place on a hot summer day.

What is the history of this garden, a garden which would have delighted the heart of Shelley?

Macgregor’s devotion to the highlands, the home of his people, and his devotion to his ancestor Rob Roy the most feared of the great broad swordsmen of the clan Macgregor. Proud of his high place in the genealogy of his clan, he decided to create a property worthy even to the miniature Highland lakes of great clansmen.

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SO THE GARDEN AROSE

For six years Rob Roy, the Rob Roy who was a peaceable cattle breeder before the bitter wrongs made him the scourge of his powerful enemies – lived again beside those Macedon lakes. […]

Macgregor bred highland cattle and hatched trout and John Bruce his retainer piped him round the lakes and misty hills. He was a highland chieftain, of the more recent and less impoverished vintage. Six years after the creation of the garden he died at his home in Melbourne. He was 46 years old. (He died on 24th Feb 1899).

For nearly 40 years the charred ruins of the Macgregor’s mansion moulded and rotted away on the lonely mountain side, but the garden grew, year after year. It is his memorial. And none better could a man have.

Ard Choille is of National significance not only because it is the creation of one of Australia’s prominent industrialists but also as a fine example of the work of the noted landscape designer and nurseryman, William Sangster, of the firm Taylor and Sangster. It is significant for the intactness of Sangster’s original design including stone paths and edges, water features, land forms, water reticulation system and planting; for the manner in which the awkward and steeply sloping site has been used to advantage by the incorporation of ‘lochs’ and cascades, befitting the Scottish ancestry of its first owner; for its fine collection of rare trees and plants; for its retention of the particularly fine and unusual shade house, the only example in Australia know to be constructed entirely of metal.

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SO THE GARDEN AROSE

For six years Rob Roy, the Rob Roy who was a peaceable cattle breeder before the bitter wrongs made him the scourge of his powerful enemies – lived again beside those Macedon lakes. […]

Macgregor bred highland cattle and hatched trout and John Bruce his retainer piped him round the lakes and misty hills. He was a highland chieftain, of the more recent and less impoverished vintage. Six years after the creation of the garden he died at his home in Melbourne. He was 46 years old. (He died on 24th Feb 1899).

For nearly 40 years the charred ruins of the Macgregor’s mansion moulded and rotted away on the lonely mountain side, but the garden grew, year after year. It is his memorial. And none better could a man have.

Ard Choille is of National significance not only because it is the creation of one of Australia’s prominent industrialists but also as a fine example of the work of the noted landscape designer and nurseryman, William Sangster, of the firm Taylor and Sangster. It is significant for the intactness of Sangster’s original design including stone paths and edges, water features, land forms, water reticulation system and planting; for the manner in which the awkward and steeply sloping site has been used to advantage by the incorporation of ‘lochs’ and cascades, befitting the Scottish ancestry of its first owner; for its fine collection of rare trees and plants; for its retention of the particularly fine and unusual shade house, the only example in Australia know to be constructed entirely of metal.

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Also of interest is that one of Australia’s celebrated artists, Frederic McCubbin, produced one of his greatest works – The Pioneer on bushland below Ard Choille with the setting for the work being a view of the land of Ard Choille. The Cottage in the painting was one which was actually on Ard Choille, it was the cottage which belonged to Macgregor’s manager who looked after the estates prize bulls.

McCubbin’s daughter, Kathleen Mangan wrote of her family’s time in the property Fontainebleau which is just below Ard Choille, and of her memories of the gardens.

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Also of interest is that one of Australia’s celebrated artists, Frederic McCubbin, produced one of his greatest works – The Pioneer on bushland below Ard Choille with the setting for the work being a view of the land of Ard Choille. The Cottage in the painting was one which was actually on Ard Choille, it was the cottage which belonged to Macgregor’s manager who looked after the estates prize bulls.

McCubbin’s daughter, Kathleen Mangan wrote of her family’s time in the property Fontainebleau which is just below Ard Choille, and of her memories of the gardens.

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