A Plan For All Seasons
Explore the glorious grounds of Bronte House.
You have to throw yourself into a garden like this,” says Anna van der Gardner, current tenant of Bronte House with her husband Wes and two daughters. This is a serious gardener’s garden, full of history and rare plants, on a vast scale. “It is a big responsibility,” she says. “But we feel it responds to the love and care we give it.”
Covering two acres (0.8ha), the garden rambles across a gully close to Bronte Beach, protected by some of the original trees planted by Georgiana Lowe, the first homeowner, in the 1840s. Leo Schofield made the garden great again during his 10-year lease from 1994, working with designer Myles Baldwin.
Each part of the garden has its own character, from the Lovers’ Walk (named by Georgiana) running under tall trees carpeted with thousands of clivias, to the lawns of the eastern terrace (facing the sea) and a succulent garden and rockery inspired by the Jardin Exotique in Monaco. The Carriageway Border features thoughtful planting combinations of unusual perennials and shrubs such as wigandia ( Wigandia caracasana) and mist flower ( Bartlettina sordida), which bears mauve blooms in September.
Following Leo’s tenancy, there was a major restoration of the house by Waverley Council, which owns the Bronte House estate, after which the garden, too, was again in need of love and rejuvenation. Anna and Wes have supplied that in spades.
“Gardens are evolving things, so they always require new ideas,” says Anna. She inherited a passion for gardening from her mother and trained as a florist before transitioning to interior design. Though the subtropical, flower-rich plantings of Bronte House are a change from the green palette of her previous gardens, she has embraced it. “All the different areas are so beautiful, and offer flowers at different times of the year. We love the excitement of the queen of the night cactus ( Epiphyllum
hylocereus), which climbs up through the frangipani tree and only flowers between dusk and dawn. Now I love going to rare plant fairs and finding special little things to bring home.”
Such a large and important garden needs professional assistance, so Anna brought in Nicola Cameron and her awardwinning team at Pepo Botanic Design. “It’s a thrill working in such a special environment,” says Nicola. “With its amazing collection of plants suited to coastal Sydney, this is like a botanic garden. For anyone who wanders through, there’s so much inspiration. In spring, it’s breathtaking.” # Pepo Botanic Design; (02) 9349 1220 or pepo.com.au.
‘When people visit the garden, hopefully they will see that every part has been touched and loved.’ Anna van der Gardner