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Celebrity gardener Jamie Durie has bought one of Australia’s most extraordinary private gardens, Paul Bangay’s Stonefields, for more than $11 million.
The TV personality and his business partners plan to turn the private home about 85 kilometres north-west of Melbourne into a luxury accommodation venture.
Stonefields is set on 16 hectares in Denver, between Kyneton and Daylesford, and its stunning gardens have been described by renowned landscape designer Bangay as his “life’s greatest work”.
He listed the property last spring, saying at the time he hoped the new owner would be someone who loved gardens.
The sale is bittersweet for Bangay, who is pleased to know Durie and his backers will be looking after the gardens into the future and the public will still have access.
“Jamie is a great custodian of the garden. For him to be involved with it means a lot to me,” Bangay said.
He plans to find another opportunity in the area to create his next dream home with husband Barry McNeill, after feeling frustrated not to be able to do much more to Stonefields once the garden had matured.
He hopes his next project will be a productive one, with a vegetable garden and an orchard.
Records show Stonefields last sold in 2004 for $320,000. Bangay transformed the site from a bare paddock into grand gardens inspired by his world travels, with stately oak trees, a hilltop pool, a Tuscan-inspired main house with dramatic interiors, plus a guesthouse and private office.
He has been a mentor to Durie, giving him advice on pursuing horticultural studies 25 years ago. The pair remained friends, and Durie and his partner have previously stayed with Bangay and McNeill as guests.
Durie called Stonefields “one of the greatest gardens in the southern hemisphere”, and jumped on a plane to inspect it once he heard it was for sale.
“We are pinching ourselves that we are able to secure it,” he said.
“For a private garden that Paul has manicured for over two decades, now it is a garden that Australia deserves to see, hence our plan around creating a sustainable hotel around the property.”
With his business partners at Opulus Hotels, financier and hotelier Dominic Lambrinos and investment banker Kim Jacobs, Durie plans an eco-resort opening in 2025. The group will develop luxurious, sustainable free-standing villas, investing $70 million in the construction.
Durie’s plan is for the venue to care for guests’ wellbeing. For example, it will have paints that do not contain volatile organic compounds, and air purifiers to accommodate people with hay fever or compromised immune systems.
He also pointed to the benefits of time in a garden to improve wellbeing and reduce blood pressure and anxiety.
“I think it is a wonderful way to continue Paul’s legacy … because I do think it is one of the most important gardens in Australia,” Durie said.
Forbes Global Properties’ Michael Gibson had the listing and confirmed the sale, which includes an adjoining property that was not originally on the market but made a compelling deal for both parties.
He declined to comment on the price, although one source with knowledge of the deal put it at more than $11 million.
“It is going to be a world-class eco-resort,” Gibson said.
“I can’t speak for the developers, but it will obviously be built around the gardens, and the views are spectacular.”
Gibson said the property had attracted a substantial amount of interest and inspections during the sales campaign. It was originally pitched as an ideal home for either an owner-occupier or someone looking for a country retreat.
The deal was first reported by The Australian Financial Review and marks a dynamic start to the year for Victoria’s luxury residential real estate market. The home was originally listed with a price guide of $8 million to $8.8 million before the adjoining parcel was included.