Maggie Beer pictured at Cruden Farm, where she found inspiration for several dishes in the TV series Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden.
Maggie Beer pictured at Cruden Farm, where she found inspiration for several dishes in the TV series Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden. Narelle Portanier / Foxtel

Maggie Beer celebrates Dame Elisabeth's evergreen legacy

THERE'S nothing haphazard about Cruden Farm. Situated on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, the property was lovingly looked after for more than eight decades by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.

Every tree on the 54-hectare site has a story and a purpose, whether it was planted by Dame Elisabeth herself, her children and grandchildren or as a gift.

Few people have had the opportunity to plant an acorn and see it grow into a mature oak tree like Dame Elisabeth did.

"I first came here as a horticulture student and coming to meet dame Elisabeth was a great honour," landscape designer Paul Bangay says.

"My favourite thing in the garden is the oak tree. Dame Elisabeth planted it nearly 90 years ago. It's hard to imagine someone who planted an oak tree and saw it to maturity. Not many people get to live in their own garden for 80 years."

Blazing autumn colours at Cruden Farm.
Blazing autumn colours at Cruden Farm. Jackson Finter

Now those trees and the vast, colourful array of plants and the wildlife they attract are giving back to the community, delighting young and old through public open days.

In Foxtel's new one-hour documentary Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden, cameras capture the garden in all its splendour throughout the four seasons and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to keep it that way.

Michael Morrison was just 27 when he started as a part-time gardener at Cruden Farm. Now, 48 years later, he's the custodian to Dame Elisabeth's legacy and is still carrying out her wishes to the letter.

Cruden Farm's head gardener Michael Morrison in a scene from the TV documentary Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden.
Cruden Farm's head gardener Michael Morrison in a scene from the TV documentary Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden. Jackson Finter

"In her later years she was very anxious to hand it on in good condition to the family looking after the trust," he says.

"She was a very strong-minded person with plants. She didn't like things to look self-conscious or embarrassed in the garden, as she put it.

"She loved the age and the wood of old trees. She considered them natural sculptures."

The documentary culminates in the 90th anniversary celebrations featuring a morning tea menu by Maggie Beer, who was inspired by the plants in Cruden's picking garden.

Landscape designer Paul Bangay and Maggie Beer in a scene from Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden.
Landscape designer Paul Bangay and Maggie Beer in a scene from Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden. Supplied

"It was a joy to experience it (the garden) with Paul," she says.

"By the time I'd finished walking through the garden I knew what I wanted to do. She made her own lemonade so I made lemonade scones. The tomatoes were growing in between the roses, so I had to do something with tomato that was savoury but sweet savoury.

"To have Dame Elisabeth leave this for the public to have the chance to come is testament to her."

Inside Dame Elisabeth's Garden airs tomorrow at 7.30pm Qld, 8.30pm NSW on The Lifestyle Channel.


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