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