Rose Creek Estate in East Keilor held their annual Open Day on the last Sunday in August. Leaf, Root & Fruit took the opportunity to visit this impressive family garden. Without the queue of visitors, the house on the corner of Craig Street would look just like any other in the street. However, once you wander down the driveway and around the back of the house, you easily understand why their home is known as “A bit of Tuscany in East Keilor”
On our visit we were impressed with the sheer scale of the gardens lovingly tended by Tony and Lina Siciliano. Over 3000 grapevines grow across two paddocks bordered by dozens of olive trees. They grow enough fruit and veggies to satisfy themselves, their friends and still have plenty left over to sell at farmers’ markets. All this, in the middle of suburbia on hillside sloping down to a tributary of the Maribyrnong River.
The family have been producing fine wines and winning olive oils for many years. The olive oil production is based on traditions in their home town of Varapodio in Calabria, southern Italy. Rose Creek Estate employs four workers. True to Italian tradition, it is also supported by a network of friends and family who help throughout the year to ensure that production can remain viable.
The secrets to their gardening success are put down to the wide diversity of plants they grow. Companion planting is an integral part of their growing philosophy. Lina and Tony believe that herbs, such as basil, fennel, wild mustards, and even “weeds” such as milk thistles, all have a part to play. Bees and other pollinators are encouraged into the garden through extensive use of oregano, marjoram, lemon balm, marigolds and borage. All of this companion planting supports the production of their staple veggie crops such as tomatoes, eggplant, sweet corn, peas, beans, cucumbers, capsicums, Tuscan kale and borlotti beans.
At the time of our visit, spring planting preparations were not yet in full swing, but the fruit trees were exploding into a riot of pink and white blossom. Chickens were scratching about in the veggie patch, while others were roaming the expanse of their massive chicken run and coop. A handful of tasty catering options were available to visitors. For lunch we sampled the capricciosa and margarita pizzas. We finished it off with some of the home made cannelloni, filed with delicious custard. The live music gave the day a festival atmosphere. For those of you that missed it, we definitely recommend taking the opportunity to visit next year.