RHAPSODY IN BLUE

A LOVE OF FRESH AIR AND COOL CLI­MATES BROUGHT TWO WELL-TRAV­ELLED GAR­DEN­ERS TO NSW’S BLUE MOUN­TAINS.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHRIS­TINE REID PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MICHAEL WEE

How the NSW vil­lage of Leura, with its cool-cli­mate and fresh air, charmed two sea­soned gar­den­ers.

FITZROY STREET, IN THE BLUE Moun­tains vil­lage of Leura, NSW is a dead-end. In some towns or cities, the pas­sage might be de­scribed as a cul-de-sac or a no-through street, here the de­scrip­tion is un­err­ingly ac­cu­rate. That’s be­cause any driver who crashes through the bar­rier at the end of the bi­tu­men is cer­tain of a dead end — the street fin­ishes only me­tres from of one of the most spec­tac­u­lar gorges in this World Her­itage-listed area. The own­ers of num­ber 32, the last house in the street, Robert Brain and Neal Blewett, have named their prop­erty Dead End House in a touch of Monty Python-es­que hu­mour. Jokes aside, the blue abyss on their doorstep is not the rea­son they bought the prop­erty some 20 years ago; the allure of Leura was the cli­mate and fresh moun­tain air. Both Robert and Neal were brought up in Tas­ma­nia’s cool cli­mate and have spent years away from Aus­tralia — Robert liv­ing in Italy and the UK and Neal as a Rhodes Scholar and later as Aus­tralia’s High Com­mis­sioner to the UK dur­ing the Keat­ing years. “We thought about re­turn­ing to Tas­ma­nia to live, but you can get in the car and from here drive to any main­land city. As well as the fresh air, the dis­tinc­tive sea­sons were the chief at­trac­tion,” says Neal. To­day, the gar­den at Dead End House re­flects not only the cur­rent own­ers’ in­ter­ests, but also the changes in hor­ti­cul­tural fashion over the past 150 years. The awe-in­spir­ing land­scape of the Blue Moun­tains with its dra­matic cliffs, wa­ter­falls and deep, forested gorges has al­ways at­tracted visi­tors and af­ter the com­ple­tion of the rail­way in 1869, the area be­came fash­ion­able for many of Syd­ney’s prom­i­nent ci­ti­zens to build sum­mer re­treats. At an al­ti­tude of nearly 1000 me­tres, it was pos­si­ble to grow many beloved ex­otic plants, such as oaks, elms, daf­fodils and lilacs, and they thrived in the rich soil. This pe­riod in the 19th cen­tury also marked the peak of pop­u­lar­ity for conifers, as the Bhutan cy­press and de­o­dar in the gar­den at Dead End House at­test. Their dark fo­liage and strong forms added a novel di­men­sion to the land­scape, es­pe­cially in the win­ter when the trees were leaf­less, and a con­trast to the muted tones of the sur­round­ing eu­ca­lypt forests. In the tra­di­tional English-style gardens with their im­mac­u­late lawns and clipped hedges, the na­tive tree ferns (Dick­so­nia antarc­tica) were gen­er­ally re­tained, adding their lux­u­ri­ant ap­pear­ance among the newly in­tro­duced ex­otics. >

GAR­DEN LEURA NSWThe mag­nif­i­cent violet-blue head of Hy­drangea macro­phylla in full bloom. FAC­ING PAGE Owner Robert Brain tend­ing to the flow­er­ing shrub in his sprawl­ing gar­den at Dead End House in NSW’S Blue Moun­tains.

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