Mount Macedon made sense as a base for our family as it was close enough to Melbourne and the airport to enable my husband and I to carry on our careers. There is no more magical time to fall in love with the district than in winter—we bought a 2 hectare property on the northern side of Mount Macedon almost immediately after visiting the area on a Sunday drive nearly 14 years ago.

As well as nurturing my family, this district has nurtured my creativity. My first novel, The Midsummer Garden, was set partly in the Macedon Ranges. My main character, Pip, goes mushrooming on Mount Macedon in winter—just like our family does every year and her mother’s herb walk brimming with rosemary, sage and catmint are based on the very garden we built.

Manning Kirsty LRG 1 uai
Kirsty Manning

Gardening has been a great teacher. I love being in my garden, doing hard physical work. It forces me to slow down. Gardening is a little like writing in some ways—the results are not immediate. You have to have an idea and break it down, to plant or prune section by section. It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you try and do it all at once.

In my novels, I try to capture that old-school idea of how plants can uplift us and create something special. I’m interested in the history of herbs and the herb lore of different cultures, also how plants can be used to heal. And of course, the symbolism and metaphors around gardening are endless.

I adore being in different landscapes, and I’m always peeking at gardens down laneways and over fences all over the Macedon Ranges. I can’t help myself! I also love to go for long walks up Mount Macedon to McGregor’s Picnic Ground and Camels Hump. Walking grounds me, and gives me time to nut out problems and plot twists. I’ll never tire of the forest on my doorstep, thick with towering mountain gums, then thinning to alpine gums and ferns the higher up the mountain. Sometimes I run my hands over the trunks and feel the blackened scars of Ash Wednesday and bushfires past. This place feels eternal and powerful, so when the world feels a little too chaotic, time spent outdoors in the mountains and gardens of Macedon Ranges is a salve.

Kirsty Manning’s latest novel is The Jade Lily.