‘Culzean’ Tasmania

Recently we visited the historic garden ‘Culzean’ (pronounced Cullane) in Westbury, Central North Tasmania, around 70km from the coastal town of Devonport and 35km from Launceston.

(Please note: as this blog has been transferred from our old website some images are low resolution.)

The property is owned by Phillip Leith and Dinah Fitzgerald who bought it in 2012 – and began to contemplate the legacy.

The thirteen-hectare property, now including nearly three hectares of gardens, a dam and a lake, has been cherished by several owners.

In 1841 Captain Edward Martin, an officer in the Indian Army, bought the property and built ‘Woodbine Cottage’.

Culzean©KimWoodsRabbidge-Our-Australian-GardensMany of the significant trees, including along the driveway, were planted in the late1870s during the two short years a Mrs Joy owned ‘Blair Athol’ (as the property was then known).

When a later owner, Charles Allen MLC, moved in he changed the name again to ‘Leicesterville’ – in deference to the English Leicester sheep he bred.

Three decades later, in 1907, Mr and Mrs Charles Busby, from northern NSW, renamed the property ‘Culzean’, and lived here for fifty years. Apparently an employee (whom they must have admired) had worked as a game-keeper on Scotland’s Culzean Castle Estate.

As Mr Busby is buried here it’s now a registered gravesite.

In 1965 Dr and Mrs Laker became the owners and their tenure was significant. Dr Laker, a vet with a passion for gardening, built the lake and planted many of the conifers. The garden was open to the public and he ran a nursery. There’s still some evidence today: trees planted in rows, and a large rose-growing bed.

When the Lakers divided two hectares off and built a retirement home on the east side, they sold to Reg and Elizabeth Finn who renovated the house and cottage, and upgraded the watering system. Planting many new trees, the Finns also created a park-like area on the garden’s north side.

As with any garden, renewal is a very important process and while several changes have already taken place at Culzean since Phillip and Dinah’s arrival, more are planned.

Both Dinah, and trusted gardener Tim Pears, have introduced fresh ideas, while mindful of retaining the garden’s charming character.

Large areas of open space provide a contrast with more intimate nooks.

Pomes thrive in this climate. Quince, pears and apples, and apricots are abundant.

Tasmania, The Apple Isle, has a well deserved reputation for being ‘clean and green’. Now their agriculture is quite diversified but for many years the state was a major supplier of apples to the world.

In this garden mature trees provide protection from the extremes of the climate. Already temperatures have dropped below minus 1C with early frosts.

A Scottish elm provides a picturesque setting for summer brides on ’The Weddng Lawn’.

The large sculptural leaves of Gunnera, at the water’s edge, die down over winter.

Tim has been establishing new areas, planting many herbaceous perennials, to ensure year-round interest in the garden.

He’s currently working on either eradicating or reducing a few species that have become rampant such as periwinkle, Arum italicum, elderberry, blackberry, some of the lilies on the lake, and Iris pseudacorus on the water’s edge.

Large areas of lawn have been over sown with exotic grasses for better performance. The property has no domestic stock but wild fallow deer visit – fortunately with minimal damage.


And crab apples, following on from spring’s shower of blooms, not only provide cheery autumn colour – they make delicious jam as well.

Mature trees - priceless. 

Mature trees – priceless.

Dinah’s just back from a visiting gardens in Europe – inevitably she’ll have further inspiration!

We’ll look forward to visiting again and seeing what changes are made. It’s wonderful the new owners and gardener are all so passionate about Culzean. The legacy will continue to grow.bigger logo

2 replies »

  1. Golly, this is my type of garden – I love it! Thankyou OAG. Keep up the great work. We are just starting to plan our new garden. It won’t be Tasmania, but temps have been as low as minus 10 this winter, so I have my fingers crossed we can enjoy similar plantings 🙂


  2. We’d love to come and visit your cool-climate garden when you’re ready Michael. You made a great job of ‘Grandom’ in tough Mt Crosby conditions so I’m sure this new garden will be a dream.


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