Mrs Simpson at Norala Garden

Norala Garden. Heritage garden

A long-time Bright Open Garden icon, Norala Garden is one of Victoria's notable gardens.

It is the result of many years of establishment and maintenance by the late Miss Norma McGown and her friend Miss Alma Stanhope. Their passion for creating gardens for enjoyment, rambling woodlands with open lawns and shade tree. Making the most of the natural environment they have built something we can still enjoy and marvel at.

The garden first appeared as one of Australia's icons in the 1996 book by well known garden writer Dr Holly Forsyth (The Constant Gardener TM); Garden Lovers Guide to Australia. Her entry reflected on its uniqueness as follows:

THE COLOUR at Norala gardens for Bright’s spring and autumn Festivals is extraordinary. In spring, you enter by banks of azaleas with species clematis clambering over structures. The garden was started in 1961 by Miss Norma McGown and Miss Alma Stanhope and extends down to the creek which winds through the garden. Beautiful stonework paths and terracing using flat river stones were all created by Miss McGown. Three small bridges span the creek leading the visitor to the many treasures. There are 134 camellias in the garden, as well as over 80 rhododendron and 80 mollis azaleas. Along the stream walk there are various special trees such as the Canadian sugar maple, and many special camellias. There is Camellia ‘Hanafuki’with a cup shaped flower, C. ‘C.M. Hovi’, C. ‘Hikaru Genji’, the delicate pink of C. ‘C.M. Wilson’there are dogwoods and an enormous Hydrangea aspera. You continue on along the stone paths which wind around three enormous river red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), past rare maples and down to the dell, which was once the site of a goldmine. Here, beyond the gates, is the woodland, where the surplus plants - Miss McGown, like many of us today, could not resist a nursery - were planted. Here there is a rare copper coloured hazelnut, maples, the evergreen liquidambar, and several double cherries. The main lawn is dominated by a massive silver birch and by a rhododendron brought as seed from Germany over one hundred years ago.

There is much local lore about Norma and Alma's work in the garden and the many locals whom helped build and maintain the garden over a very long time. Diary entries, video footage and locals all have stories to tell of the making of this very special place.  Norala Garden is a joy to visit and stay a while.

"A quirky character, Norma borrowed the Council truck every Sunday to pick up the stones she'd had imported from Everton"

Norala Garden is beautifully landscaped, making the most of the meandering Bakers Gully creek. The careful observer can spot a Platypus here at dawn as they have made their burrows in the banks of the Ovens River just opposite the cottage. The garden's setting is made all the more gorgeous by extensive English-style, hand built, dry stone walling which Norma created over many years. Curving paths and multiple level terraces are filled with a large variety of unique specimen trees and plants that have withstood the ravages of droughts and floods.

Norala Garden is glorious at any time of the year.

It features a large variety of camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and a large tree canopy which frames the garden and further gives context. In Winter the hellebores provide a carpet of muted colour whilst in Spring the camellias simply light up the garden from every angle, including paths strewn with crimson, red and pink as if the garden is making itself up for a wedding procession.

We encourage visitors to enjoy the garden and respect the work of Norma and Alma who have created a unique place of great beauty and calm in a very rushed world.

Guests to Mrs Simpson and Norala Garden enjoy the garden in a variety of ways, with keen photographers taking shots (some of the images above were taken by recent visitors; Mr. D. Male and Mr. A. Coloma) during the recent Spring Festival or botanical painters adding own interpretation to their holiday at Mrs Simpson as shown below. A painting recently completed by guest Ruth Walter (whilst her husband was trying his luck to hook wily trout at the back gate).

Recent botanical painting of a rambling Alstromeria by Ms Ruth Walter
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