Book Review: Stonefields by the Season

Stonefields by the Season: a journey through the year of an extraordinary garden

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Stonefields by the Season is a new book by celebrated Australian gardener Paul Bangay.

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To live a life led by the seasons is to live one closely tied to a garden, and Stonefields is mine. - Paul Bangay

If like me you enjoy immersing yourself in gardening books and reflecting on your own humble offering, then Stonefields by the Season by celebrated Australian gardener Paul Bangay is for you.

Paul's Victorian property, Stonefields, has now been under his expert care for 15 years.

Located halfway between Kyneton and Daylesford, and surrounded by some of Victoria's finest wineries, Stonefields is a testament to vision and passion and the mellowing brought about by age, not just of the garden, but also of the gardener.

Paul has created Stonefields from a 16 hectare cow paddock he bought in 2005. He chose the site for its access to natural spring water, pre-existing dams, views and rich red soil.

Today, the garden is mature and more beautiful than ever - from the vibrant autumn colours in the woodland and evocative dormancy of winter to the jubilant flowering of the crab apple in springtime and perpetual rich harvest of produce.

In 2013 Paul wrote The Gardens at Stonefield which told the story of finding and acquiring the piece of land and the difficulty he had in leaving his previous home, St Ambrose Farm, in the nearby village of Woodend. That book was produced when the Stonefield was still very young but in this latest book the garden has matured along with its creator.

In Stonefields by the Seasons, Paul takes the reader through the garden at different times of year to highlight the design principles he has applied to various parts of it, and the wide-ranging inspirations for his choices. Along the way, he gives practical advice on seasonal planting and outlines essential quarterly tasks.

For me watching plants that obey each season has a romance attaed to it - it's the ability to actually see the universal cycle of life in your own little patch. - Paul Bangay

Reflecting on his time in this treasured space, Paul muses on creativity, experimentation, achievements and disappointments, his shifting attitude to landscaping, the universal cycle of life and the impact of climate change on his surroundings.

Filled with the most glorious images by photographer Simon Griffiths, Stonefields by the Seasons is the sort of book you can pick up, planning a quick browse, and find yourself some considerable time later totally absorbed.

Paul begins his journey through the year with autumn "because, for me, it's a time to relax and truly enjoy the garden. The stress of summer is over and we can all step back and enjoy the way the garden responds to the milder and hopefully moister conditions".

The book includes seasonal planting, Paul's vegetable and herb gardens, the joy of perusing catalogues to choose bulbs for spring, hedgework and wisteria and the appeal of crab apples.

More than just an intimate tour around Stonefields today, this book is an invitation to contemplate the essence of gardening and the intense rewards we can all gain from it.

Gardening is a passion and art form that requires much patience and longterm planning and years later, there is now a sense of maturity to the garden. - Paul Bangay

About the author:

Paul Bangay is one of Australia's most high-profile landscape designers. His working life is divided between Australian and overseas commissions.

Paul's previous books, Small Garden Design, Paul Bangay's Country Gardens, The Gardens at Stonefields, Paul Bangay's Guide to Plants, Paul Bangay's Garden Design Handbook, The Defined Garden, The Boxed Garden, The Balanced Garden and The Enchanted Garden continue to find new readers.

In 2001 Paul was awarded the Centenary Medal for his contribution to Australian landscape design. In 2018 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Stonefields by the Seasons by Paul Bangay. Published by Penguin RRP: $59.99. www.penguin.com.au

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