When we think of Maggie Beer it is usually through her association with food, but as she reminds us, everything begins in the garden.
“I have a huge vegetable garden at home, with a cottage on 20 acres. So we have an orchard, I have a rose garden, macadamias, chestnuts and walnuts, quinces and grapes,” she says.
“Gardens are where it starts.”
So she is a natural fit to co-host the LifeStyle special Inside Dame Elisabeth’s Garden.
The remarkable Cruden Farm, in Langwarrin on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, was lovingly created by the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who passed away at the aged of 103 in 2012. LifeStyle cameras have now captured the changing colours of the property over four seasons.
“When we filmed it, it was the first time I had been here. So this is my third time. I’ve seen it in late spring, summer and early spring,” Beer explains.
“Truly it is different every time you come. It’s so beautiful. It has wonderful scale, and an extraordinary history.
“I never met (Dame Elisabeth), but I saw an amazing documentary when she was 100 and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, what an amazing, strong, principled person.’”
Joining her is landscape designer Paul Bangay, whose TV appearances have largely been confined to guest spots on shows such as Gardening Australia, Burke’s Backyard & Good Morning Australia. Agreeing to this special was a no-brainer.
“I knew the Murdoch family, I’ve worked for a lot of the family members,” he says.
“I thought ‘I know the farm really well, I knew the family and I’m good friends with Maggie.’ So this was easy.”
Bangay’s brother Ben is a production designer for TV shows such as Playing for Keeps, All Saints and Winners & Losers. But Paul inherited his flair for gardening from his mother.
“She was a great gardener and I used to get out in the garden when I was a young boy and I just loved it. She gave me a piece of the garden and it kept growing and changing and designing it,” he continues.
“But my father was Vice-Chancellor at RMIT and he said ‘You have to go to University if you want to do that.’ So he took me to the right place.”
The LifeStyle special also includes interviews from son Rupert, daughters Janet and Anne, granddaughters Penny, Judy, Julie and Prudence, veteran gardener Michael Morrison who has worked at Cruden Farm for over 47 years, and his young apprentice Amanda Woodhams.
“It’s very much about how an owner has created a garden. The two are very linked together. There’s also a lot of footage about Dame Elisabeth in the show,” says Bangay.
Maggie Beer, who also credits her mother for her infectious joy for life, says that with Bangay’s knowledge and Dame Elisabeth’s meticulous attention to detail, Cruden Farm is a rare gem left for generations to appreciate.
“I just love gardens so having seen what someone has put their life into, is pretty special.”
Inside Dame Elisabeth’s Garden airs Thursday, November 8 at 8:30pm on LifeStyle.