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The Yanakie Property

An Exotic Garden In Middle Of A Forest


In 1971, the late Una Maude Blythe bequeathed her property, Yanakie, to the then State Forests Department, who housed a ranger there for a time and then appeared, for all intents and puposes, to promptly forget all about it.

Situated above the railway track about 150 metres along the track from the bridge towards Belgrave, the house and it's magnificent garden was indeed forgotten and it and the access road leading from The Belgrave-Gembrook Road and crossing the Clematis Creek fairly disappeared into the bush, and like the Sleeping Beauty's Castle, became invisible to all but the keenest eyes for many years until the house was burned down in 1986.

Since then the property has attracted even less attention.
Una's garden hasn't been sleeping, however, as apart from the invasive species, the large grounds contain some really remarkable specimens including dozens of conifers i.e. Cedrus, Picea, Sequoia, Yew, and Cupressus.
Several Corymbia(Eucalyptus)ficifolia and E. botryoides specimens have reached a similar height to the surrounding E. regnans.

The actual house garden is dominated by a big spreading Chestnut and all around there are Rhododenrens and mature Sesanqua Camelias and many other old world garden plants.
The rare and very exotic Cardiocrinum giganteum, the giant himalayan lily with large heart-shaped leaves and flower stalks up to 4 metres tall, has naturalised in the property, and in fact appears in the forest on the high side of the track all the way to the Glen Harrow property, situated to the north of the Belgrave Puffing Billy Locomotive Workshops, which is well-known for just this botanical phenomenon.

This Yanakie property has become the source of some of the weed issues that the creek valley downstream of the bridge is encumbered with.

Whilst the forest has been gradually subsuming this garden, there has been some fair trade.
The mothers of all Holly trees (variegated specimens), the mother of all Sycamore trees and other mothers have for decades been quietly distributing their offspring far and wide, but mostly downhill, as gravity would have it. They have crept across and along the track all the way to the bridge and all the way to the Belgrave Station and of course now inhabit/infest the creek valley below the bridge.

It is obvious that the pest species still extant in the property need to be addressed concurrently with any major control and remedial work being undertaken to the creek environs, particularly in respect of the Holly and Sycamore.
Otherwise it is like digging a hole in loose sand, it all keeps falling back in.

Our group plans to arrange a survey of the property and locate and identify the exotics. Beginning in 1982 the FOSF performed a metre by metre mapping survey of Sherbrooke Forest over a great number of years. A similar survey of this property would benefit our planning.

The area has only recently been incorporated into the Dandenong Ranges National Park, upgrading it's status from Crown Land, which it's been since dear Una generously left the land to the people.

It is the view of the Friends group that this property, with only the benign exotics remaining has potential to be an attraction, perhaps part of a nature trail beginning at Belgrave station and incorporating the fern gully environment, the Yanakie property and the Trestle Bridge.

The responsibility for this area has been a hot potato, passed around by multiple organisations. Some have responsibility for part, but none for all.

The success of any weed management programs centered around the creek below the property quite obviously depends on the sources of the problem being dealt with as well.
It is our view that without the benevolent and active co-operation and involvement of the railway, there will be severe limitations on what can be achieved.

Just having people legally accessing the area via the railway and working along the track whilst trains are running necessarily involves some railway safe-working procedural supervision/instruction and participation.

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