A Plan For All Sea­sons

Ex­plore the glo­ri­ous grounds of Bronte House.

Australian House & Garden - - Content - STORY He­len Young | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Prue Rus­coe

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

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