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Agar­den is only as good as its owner,” says An­nie Wilkes of An­nie Wilkes De­sign – and surely, also its cre­ator. This crisply clipped and man­i­cured sanc­tu­ary in Syd­ney’s eastern sub­urbs is a trib­ute to both. While An­nie com­pleted it six years ago, such has been the com­mit­ment from her and the own­ers that she re­turns ev­ery week to tidy, trim and fer­tilise, en­sur­ing it re­mains lush and pris­tine and as good, if not bet­ter, than ever.

Nearly three years in the ges­ta­tion, the gar­den “stole” from its neigh­bours, says An­nie. The fan­tas­ti­cally ev­er­green ma­ture gs and eu­ca­lypts in ad­join­ing prop­er­ties pro­vided the ready set­ting for her hand­i­work, while guar­an­tee­ing in­stant pri­vacy. “It’s the cur­tain, the back­drop,” says An­nie who, in her inim­itable style, would stage the drama that would un­fold be­fore it.

The gar­den makeover oc­curred in tan­dem with the ren­o­va­tion of the house, which dis­plays more than a soupçon of French in uence. An­nie razed the back gar­den, leav­ing just the ex­ist­ing pool which, to con­form with coun­cil re­stric­tions, she en­closed be­hind a fence of clear tough­ened glass so it wouldn’t in­ter­rupt the ow of the space. “I vir­tu­ally had carte blanche to cre­ate a lush green en­vi­ron­ment,” she says. Tak­ing some de­sign cues from the house’s clas­si­cal style, she opened up ac­cess to the back­yard while pro­vid­ing a sense of ar­rival with broad sand­stone steps ex­tend­ing from one side of the gar­den to the other. They lead to a raised lawn more than half a me­tre above the home’s ter­race and ad­join­ing liv­ing ar­eas. As a bonus, says An­nie, the steps pro­vide in­for­mal seat­ing, ideal for fre­quent en­ter­tain­ing. She then in­stalled a shaded seat­ing area be­side the pool and added two vast mir­rors, a Wilkes sig­na­ture, to cre­ate vis­tas and a sense of the­atre, one later anked by mar­ble stat­ues se­lected by the owner.

Plant­wise, she in­tro­duced screen­ing to a height of two to three me­tres along the back bound­ary, con­sist­ing of fast-grow­ing ev­er­green Hol­ly­wood Ju­niper conifers (Ju­nipe­rus chi­nen­sis), favoured for their “twisted, sculpted” pro les, and con­trast­ing Water­housea ori­bunda, or weep­ing lilly pilly, both of which would re­quire prun­ing to achieve the crisp shapes she wanted.

Sweet vibur­num ( Vibur­num odor­atis­si­mum) and Ja­panese box ( Buxus mi­cro­phylla japon­ica) form boxed hedg­ing in rec­tan­gu­lar plat­forms and planes that pro­vide a stepped feel­ing to the gar­den,

lend­ing vis­ual in­ter­est while sub­di­vid­ing it into more in­ti­mate ar­eas, in con­trast to the grander pro­por­tions of the over­all space. On the fringes of the lawn, An­nie trimmed the box into clas­sic cones, in­ter­planted with star jas­mine (Trach­e­losper­mum jas­mi­noides Tri­colour), be­hind which she in­tro­duced massed Le Cygne, or white swan hy­drangeas, famed for their white sum­mer ow­ers.

To add ver­ti­cal­ity and for­mal­ity, An­nie planted pleached snow pear ( Pyrus ni­valis) in four av­enues – two each side of the gar­den – and a copse of crepe myr­tles, cel­e­brated for their drifts of white ow­ers in sum­mer, to one side of the pool.

The colour pal­ette is con ned to green fo­liage in its in nite va­ri­ety and pops of fresh white. “There is noth­ing ght­ing the pears and crepe myr­tles. There’s colour with­out the spring con­fu­sion,” she says.

Her favourite fea­ture is that the gar­den “is so calm and to­tally pri­vate. While this is a built-up area, you don’t see an­other build­ing”. She also loves the own­ers’ pas­sion for what she has cre­ated. With her reg­u­lar vis­its, An­nie has been given a priv­i­lege not many de­sign­ers have – of be­ing able to see the gar­den evolv­ing with the years, the sea­sons and even from one week to the next. an­niewil­

The gar­den “is so calm and to­tally pri­vate. You don’t see an­other build­ing.”

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