I am an early riser and most mornings I start my day with a walk. I have my usual hour long circuit through the bush to Balmoral beach, which I somehow never get bored of, but occasionally I do break the routine for interest. Interest, incidentally, is code for ‘so I can explore some new front gardens’!
I think you can divide the world’s beautiful gardens into two. First, there are the beautiful, immaculate, perfectly designed gardens and second, the homely, much loved, amateur gardens.
Despite being a garden designer myself, whilst I adore the sheer beauty of the first category and look on with appreciation of the immense talent of so many designers, these gardens can never warm my heart in quite the same way as the latter. There is nothing like a gardener’s garden.
Yesterday was my last walk around my suburb for ten days, for I am going overseas today, so I took some photos of several gardens I get to enjoy each day.
This first one is right by the beach. It is north facing and has to cope with a lot of sun and salty air. It is full of succulents and drought tolerant plants; such a sensible choice for our climate. And yet it is soft, it is pink, it is feminine and it is delicate. Not adjectives you usually associate with succulents and desert plants. A wonderful example of what can be achieved. I love the grass trees in the centre – such amazing structure and symmetry.
Overall, as you look at the garden, nothing (except the hose!) jars, nothing overly dominates; it is full of perfect combinations and contrasts where everything works. That is what is so uplifting about a ‘perfect garden’, you can look for hours and see more and more layers of detail and thought, without being repeatedly distracted by a plant or feature that just doesn’t not fit in.
A second garden on the same road has an extremely simple garden. You just see a perfect Wisteria, a perfect Cymbidium orchid and perfect box hedging. Whilst the colours are not obviously complementary the simplicity of it means that it works.
Another garden in the ‘perfectly designed’ category is this very English style garden. Lush, sweeping lawns, deciduous trees and lots of contrasting foliage colours. I feel it works well with the style of house and it is so immaculately maintained that you can’t help but be drawn to it. There are many different plant species but the whole composition is unified, resulting in high interest and cohesion. Really quite stunning.
Then we come to a quite different garden. One dominated by palms. Palms seem to polarise people – they either love them or hate them. I think this garden is really attractive. Again it is fairly restrained but there is enough going on to hold your interest and the overall effect is extremely pleasing. It is amazing how many different styles do work well in Sydney. This is part blessing and part curse – our streetscapes do struggle to work as a whole sometimes.
Then we come to a garden which seems to be a bit of a hybrid. It has an air of pre-planning to the design but it also looks as though it contains the favourite plants of its owners. It is lovely to envisage the input and love of the people who see the garden each and every day.
OK, so I definitely lied when I said there were only two categories of garden type, as the next one feels hybrid too! The colour at spring time is quite incredible – bright clashing colours; so clashing that they actually work quite well together. You can’t help but smile when you see the flowers here. You are probably not going to see this combination at Chelsea sometime soon but it would be hard for someone not to be attracted to it.
The penultimate patch of garden below is similar. I am not usually keen on the small rock edging and you couldn’t say that this fits well with the streetscape, but it is just such a delight as you walk along the road. You see Murraya hedges and grass, repeated a thousand times until you come across this little oasis of bright, interesting, loved plants. It showed what you can do with a space about a metre square. There is no excuse for any of us, however small our outdoor space!
Finally, my favourite garden of all. The one that really fills me with a joy so great that just looking at the photo excites me. This tiny front garden with virtually no exposed earth is so packed full of love and attention and care and effort that it beats all the others hands down. I see it and imagine the delight it must bring its owner – creating, maintaining and admiring it. I imagine him or her out there each day nurturing their few plants – there is not a yellow leaf or wilted stem in sight. The pride and effort that is taken here gives it such an air of life – there is nothing static or sterile about it in any way. And that pride gives the owner, and every passerby, pleasure from this small, low budget, bright and pretty little space. If only everyone got the gardening bug and the delight that comes with it.
I will miss these gardens and my walks over the next ten days. I am off to the UK to start a Master’s in Horticulture – part time over three years through distance learning. But I do hope to see some wonderful gardens (and friends) during my visit, which I will share here, and I look forward already to coming back to the beach and the sunshine and to Paul!