Cranlana, Myer family garden, Toorak

Cranlana, 62 Clendon Rd, Toorak

Cranlana was developed by the businessman and philanthropist Sidney Myer and his wife Dame Merlyn Myer. Russian-born Myer came to Australia in 1899 and was to found Australia's premier department store chain.

The first residence at Cranlana was erected in about 1903 and was purchased in 1921 by Sidney Myer who substantially remodelled it between 1929-1930 to designs prepared by HW and FP Tomkins, architects.

Further alterations were made between 1937 and 1940 and again in 1982 after a fire upstairs.

Sidney Myer resided at Cranlana until his death in 1934.

Dame Merlyn Myer also resided there until her death in 1982.

Cranlana continues to be owned and maintained by the Myer family.

In Clendon Road, Toorak, hidden behind beautifully crafted and architecturally designed gates and fence, is Cranlana. 

It is considered to be one of the finest gardens in Victoria and was the home of Sidney Myer, Dame Merlyn Myer and their family.

In 1929 they commissioned Harold Desbrowe-Annear, who was at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts movement in Australia, to extend and remodel the garden.

Today Cranlana is one of the few remaining gardens of its era in Victoria, with vast lawns and significant mature specimen trees.

The most significant of them all is a Pin Oak planted around 1934 at the top of the driveway.

The sunken garden is a highlight, regarded as the best example in Victoria.

Colourful shrubs, clipped conifers and hedges, water features, Italian marble statues and ornate urns enhance the beauty of this garden.

Cranlana has remained in the Myer family for nearly 100 years.

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In 1932 additional land was purchased on the north side, which enabled the construction of the sunken formal garden which, along with the front fence and gateway were designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear, who adopted the Italianate style.

The landscape design has strong axial lines involving the main driveway, front door and windows of the residence and the garden, and pathways, and their relationship is a vital component of the design.

These axial lines are highlighted by imported Italian marble statues, ornate urns, garden ornaments, paving and steps, and planting.

The decorative wrought iron gates incorporating the Myer shield were hand wrought by Caslake's, Melbourne's premier iron founders of the period.

After Annear's death in 1933 the garden was completed under the supervision of Yuncken, Freeman and Freeman by early 1934.

A further scheme to the front entrance was prepared in 1937 by Yuncken, Freeman, Freeman and Griffith, and renovations in 1938 followed the general style of these plans.

Cranlana, Myer family garden, Toorak, Vic

By Helen Young, Lifestyle Columnist
The Weekend Australian Magazine May 4, 2019

The name Myer scarcely needs introduction, but the exceptional house and garden that is still the family seat in Melbourne flies largely under the public radar.

Cranlana is hidden behind grand wrought iron gates on one of the largest residential blocks in Toorak.

Built in 1903, it was purchased in 1920 by retail giant Sidney Myer. He and his wife Merlyn remodelled the Edwardian house, where they raised their four children. Sidney died in 1934; Dame Merlyn lived here until her death in 1982.

Lady Marigold Southey – the youngest Myer child, who came to Cranlana 90 years ago at the age of one – is full of stories as we stroll through the grounds.

The former Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria has a deep affection for the property, as do the five generations of the family who regularly gather here.


Cranlana, Myer family garden, Toorak, Vic. Picture: Simon Griffiths

Cranlana’s garden is considered to be one of the finest in Victoria. Architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear, designed the formal, sunken garden in the Italianate style.

The strong axial lines of his design are highlighted by Italian marble statues, clipped topiaries, urns and water features, balanced by park-like grounds of generous lawns and specimen trees.

The trees are the glory of the garden, from the huge pin oak at the top of the driveway to copper beech, golden elms, tulip trees and a stately deodar cedar.

Standing under a rare white oak (Quercus alba), Lady Southey recalls her brother, the late Ken Myer, planting it as an acorn from the nearby botanic gardens. Its growth in 40 years is astonishing.


Cranlana, Myer family garden, Toorak, Vic. Picture: Simon Griffiths

“The soil is fabulous here and we suspect it found one of the underground springs,” says her daughter Lindy Shelmerdine, who is chairman of the family’s house and garden committee and a genuine plant lover. Ken also planted a Californian redwood in 1942 that is now a feature of the south lawn.

In the sunken garden, flower beds overflow with dahlias, cleomes, zinnias, marigolds, amaranthus and salvias. “My great-grandchildren love playing in the garden, just like we did,” Lady Southey says.


Cranlana, Myer family garden, Toorak, Vic. Picture: Simon Griffiths

A formal walk along the north boundary is flanked by Italian cypress, the adjacent beds planted with shade-loving shrubs and perennials, and carpeted with bluebells in spring.

A small, formal vegetable garden lies east of the house, behind a pair of rare medlar trees, while the sunny tennis court garden is a riot of colour.

Head gardener Anna Thompson propagates many of the flowers and vegetables and makes copious amounts of compost. In concert with the family, her challenge is to balance conservation with renewal as they approach their centenary at Cranlana in 2020.

The Myer family shares the property with the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, a not-for-profit dedicated to cultivating wisdom in leadership.


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Cranlana garden design