One of Victoria's most beautiful private gardens has hit the market, with Musk Farm currently up for sale through a tender process.
The famous property, located in Musk, just outside Daylesford, was built by interior designer Stuart Rattle and his partner Michael O'Neill on the grounds of the old Musk Primary School.
After purchasing the derelict schoolhouse in 1998, the couple expanded the house and grounds over the next 15 years, creating 14 'garden rooms' throughout the property.
The 9600-square metre Musk Farm was then sold for $1.59 million in 2014, following the murder of Mr Rattle by Mr O'Neill, before being sold again to current owners Cathy and Mike Wagner in 2017.
Poor health has forced the Wagners to sell the property, which they have kept open to the public for garden tours and Devonshire tea.
There is also a place of assembly permit application for the property that has been approved by Hepburn Shire Council, but is awaiting a VCAT decision.
Ms Wagner said she would like to see the new owners continue to allow the public to visit the gardens and estimated the property could bring up to $500,000 to the region's tourism economy if used as a wedding venue.
"We would like to do that because people that come and see the garden are so energised by it and really do love it but when you're a vendor, you really don't have a choice, you have to sell to whoever's the available purchaser and I know a lot of people are looking at it as just a private home," she said.
"At the VCAT hearing, I did an extrapolation of if we had six weddings a year... it had the potential to bring in almost half a million dollars in to the region in terms of tourism dollars, which could easily go to the Yarra Valley or some other region.
"I know when Stuart Rattle owned the property here, he opened it up and his last garden tour before he died, there were about 8000 people come through the property and he raised an enormous amount of money for the Wombat Hill Gardens with that opening."
The Wagners bought the property at the end of a tough time in their lives, both having just gone through major surgery as part of a paired kidney transplant.
Ms Wagner said the couple had no plans to move to regional Victoria, but that all changed when they saw the property.
"The lead up to the kidney surgery, the transplant surgery, was about two years of intensive investigations and was a very draining, difficult time in our lives and then when we saw Musk Farm immediately after the surgery, it was just such a life affirming choice," she said.
"It was very impulsive, we hadn't planned to relocate to the country at all, but we just fell in love with the place and just thought that this would be a beautiful place to just come and spend some time recovering and rebuilding our lives and it certainly has been that for us."
Since buying the property, the couple has been able to improve the property and create two new garden rooms.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Ms Wagner said she viewed their role as more 'custodians' of the property, rather than owners.
"Gardens are evolving projects, so they're always evolving. I think Stuart's structure is there but the nature of gardens is that they're constantly evolving and building and growing and changing," she said.
"We have two gardeners there each one day a week and they're really on top of it now. I think it's at the stage where it's maintainable.
"It was very expensive when we moved in which is why we moved more into tourists as a way of maintaining it and building on the property.
"I use the term custodian rather than owner because I feel like it's a responsibility to own a garden like that and you can't just let it go, you have to maintain it and keep on top of it."
The property has been listed by Belle Property Daylesford with the statement of information reflecting a price guide of $3.4-3.5 million with the tender process closing at midday on Friday, April 30.
Real estate agent Annette Leary said there had already been great interest in the property.
"We've had considerable interest in the property with a number of people coming back for second inspections and more people inquiring," she said.
"Obviously, as our marketing campaign has been ramped up over the Easter period, we've got even more people coming in and that includes people from Victoria, some regional areas in Victoria and also from New South Wales.
"It's a mixture of some people that will just use it primarily as a residence and therefore may close off the garden to the public and some have said that they may consider continuing days where they may have the gardens open to the public."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.