How it began
In 1928 journalist and newspaper executive Keith Murdoch gave his 19-year-old bride, Elisabeth Greene, a small farm as a wedding present. Elisabeth loved the property at first sight, but Murdoch, a perfectionist, soon engaged leading design professionals to revitalise the modest weatherboard cottage and old-fashioned garden as a weekend retreat suitable for his family and for entertaining. Harold Desbrowe – Annear extended the cottage, Percy Meldrum designed the stables, and Edna Walling laid out the garden.
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch
8th February 1909 —
5th December 2012
Dame Elisabeth’s upbringing taught her to love gardens and the land, because as a young wife and mother of four she found herself running two large gardens in city and country. Neither had a good water supply so she would wake at dawn — a habit that has never left her — to pump water and shift hoses. Or she would do this at dusk after a day’s work in the city.
Gardens are Michael Morrison’s passion. After horticulture studies and 10 years working with a local nursery, in 1971 he took on Sunday morning work for Dame Elisabeth, who had had little help in the large garden since making Cruden Farm her home after her husband’s death in 1952. His involvement is now all but fulltime. The partnership was significant; he and ‘the boss’ thought alike. Their regular circumnavigations of the garden in Dame Elisabeth’s electric buggy were times of great pleasure that inspired important decisions – immediate and longer-term – about design and planting, and kept them in touch with new developments.