Lex and Ruby Graham’s Cremorne Point Garden

Kangaroo Paws and Hibiscus at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Looking past the kangaroo paws and Hibiscus to the harbour at Cremorne Point

I love a garden with a story.  History adds a whole new dimension to a garden and, consequently, it oozes ‘soul’.

The public garden on the banks of Cremorne Point, in Sydney, started back in 1959.  Local residents had created a small, makeshift rock pool in the harbour, to which they could clamber down and bathe in each day.  One day, Lex Graham saw an elephant’s ear (Alocasia) bulb floating past, and scooped it up and planted it in the ground.

Alocasia new leaf unfurling Janna Schreier

Alocasia with new leaf unfurling; leaves can be up to one metre long on some species

To his amazement, it started growing.  Having never gardened in his life, he gradually found other seeds, bulbs and cuttings and stuck these in alongside it.  He had recently met Ruby, and between them, over a period of 50 years, until Ruby passed away in 2009, it got bigger and bigger until they had created a beautiful garden that covers more than two acres.

Subtle Aloe and Dietes flowers at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Subtle Aloe and Dietes flowers on the slopes of Lex and Ruby’s Cremorne Point garden

It was a real labour of love.  The banks were steep and smoothered in thick privet, Lantana and vines.  Once this was cleared they found all kinds of rubbish, from a kitchen sink to a whalebone corset.  They formed pathways zigzagging down the slope and used Agapanthus and Clivia to help bind the soil and minimise erosion, not a small issue when stormy weather would bring waves crashing over the garden.

Wonderful aloes at Les and Ruby's garden, Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Stunning aloes in flower at Lex and Ruby’s garden

There was no fresh water available and so Lex and Ruby brought water down in containers to keep the new plants alive.  Only in 1978 did the council install a tap for them.

Bauhinia flower at Les and Ruby's garden, Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Gorgeous Bauhinia, also going by the common name of ‘Orchid tree’

But this was a garden they loved.  Each pathway and corner had a name and Lex and Ruby, when not working in the garden, would sit in their favourite spots, watching the moon rise over the water, listening to the waves and the birds and feeling an immense sense of peace.

Dietes, Anigozanthus and Agapanthus at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

This almost looks like an English herbaceous border with a row of delicate Gaura, Anigozanthus and Agapanthus flowers, all mingling together

It is still a magical, peaceful spot in 2015 and so much the better for knowing the love that was put into it. It is a very romantic story, possibly growing with romance as the years go by, but one that I am happy to go with, embellished or not.

Grevillea robusts at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Grevillea robusta (silky oak) flowers light up the bay

It is also an educational garden.  You can learn a great deal about plants by noting where they grow.  I remember being told, when I arrived in hot, dry Canberra, to look in neglected gardens for the really robust plants.  Anything that survives amongst knee high lawns and flowering weeds is probably pretty tough in that area. Here, in sandy soil, positioned on a slope, in a hot region with little artificial irrigation, are perfect examples of plants that naturally suit the Sydney climate.  All laid out for you to observe and learn.

Bird bath at Les and Ruby's garden in Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Structural Agave attenuata points to a bird bath beneath the shelter of a Brugmansia tree

Aloes and agaves, angel’s trumpets (Brugmansia) and Anigozanthos, Alpinia and Bauhinia,  Aechmea (a type of bromeliad) and of course Alocasia……perhaps we should all be planting things beginning with ‘A’ and ‘B’!

Bromeliads pouring out of a Jacaranda at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

Aechmea bromeliads are epiphytes, meaning that they can grow from a tree trunk without needing roots in the ground

But whether you want to come for a peaceful walk, to read the newspaper in stunning surroundings or to learn some Sydney-hardy plants, if you live in Sydney, do come along.  I can promise a hugely uplifting experience.

Water dragon at Cremorne Point Janna Schreier

“Don’t forget me!” A water dragon, convinced I can not see him because he is standing still!

6 thoughts on “Lex and Ruby Graham’s Cremorne Point Garden

  1. Adriana says:

    What a lovely garden story – Janna; love, romance and hard work (the story of any true gardener I think) – Les must miss Ruby too!
    There seem to be a few gardens in Sydney that are public but were created by individuals – doesn’t seem to happen down here that I know of (Melbourne). You could write an entire book on Sydney gardens no doubt (oops — another idea that might get your head reeling!)

    • jannaschreier says:

      I think it happened in Sydney partly due to its hilly topography – there were lots of prime pieces of land that were very difficult to develop commercially. So much the better, I say! And yes, don’t get me started on anything else to write about – I already have pages and pages of ideas scribbled down, just not enough hours in the day!

  2. Louise Dutton says:

    What a beautiful place of love created and enjoyed together! I would never had known this place existed had you not told us about it! Thank you Janna for sharing this wonderful story. I will definitely visit one day!

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