Traditionally, when we think of highly sophisticated gardens, it’s often grand parterres and well-clipped, formal hedges and topiary that come to mind.
“having, revealing, or involving a great deal of worldly experience and knowledge of fashion and culture”,
contains an element of timeliness; it is related to fashion and culture. So whilst big country estates, with their parterres or Capability Brown landscapes were certainly sophisticated in their time (and continue to appeal to us, historically, today), surely repeating this style in 2015 shows a certain lack of sophistication?
I visited the garden at Kiloren, in Crookwell, in 2012, and was extremely taken with its beauty. However, a return trip this weekend highlighted to me that it really was in a whole other league to most ‘beautiful’ gardens. There are, quite simply, very few gardens that show the level of skill of Kiloren.
It’s not surprising that Kiloren is special. It was originally designed, in 1952, by arguably Australia’s best garden designer of all time, Edna Walling. Since then, it has had just two sets of owners; the first of which clearly appreciated the design that they commissioned, and the second, the current owners, have retained the design ethos but, I am quite sure, taken it on to a whole new level.
Rob and Jennie Churchill have lived at the property since 1982 and this second generation of Kiloren guardians is equally as skilful as Miss Walling.
Gardens are all about balance. Just enough of this particular factor, but not too much. There are so many design elements–contrast, harmony, light, shadow, proportion, unity–and each has a perfect sweet spot. This sweet spot is different in every garden; hence why garden visiting is endlessly fascinating, and hence why garden design is endlessly complex.
To find the sweet spot in just one dimension, requires an extremely sharp eye, as well as, generally, a good few years of trial and error. After 34 years of working the garden, week in, week out, it is hard to see a single improvement, on any dimension, that could be suggested to Rob and Jennie.
As you walk around this serene property, everything looks effortless. You see self seeded plants popping up everywhere you look. Surely this is nature at its best? But a trained eye can see that nature doesn’t result in gardens like this. This is ‘effortlessly chic’ at its very best.
I’ve always loved the idea of effortlessly chic. For interior design, hairstyles and fashion, I’m attracted to the idea of things looking stylish, without any hint of contrivance or of trying too hard. I tend to achieve the ‘effortless’ without the ‘chic’, particularly where clothes, hair and make-up are involved, but then that’s why I’m a garden designer, not a fashion designer; I’m just not passionate enough about those other areas!
You can see the effortlessly chic style shine through in so many areas of the garden. I became quite fixated by this simple gate, for example. It’s a bog standard, somewhat weathered, timber gate, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. It provided a focal point, a frame, a backdrop, a dividing mechanism, a contrast, character….I could go on and on. It was just perfect. Not trying too hard, not shouting a statement; just effortlessly chic.
In the same way, bird baths throughout the garden–very simple, stone structures–created a similar effect. They weren’t in your face and yet they added so much. They added life, reflection, atmosphere. Again, effortlessly chic.
I also noticed that, in this cold temperate climate, the colours were very soft. Most, but not all, of the flowers were pastel shades; softer than many colours seen in warmer climes. And yet it wasn’t a textbook colour scheme, there was a very broad mix that looked perfect together, whilst giving the impression of being entirely random.
Another aspect that was perfectly balanced was the light. There are many mature trees in this garden, but Rob and Jennie carry out extensive pruning every year. It is a delicate operation, optimising for the majesty of the trees whilst maintaining dappled, rather than oppressive light. We visited in the late afternoon and the light was completely magical; I could have gazed, entirely transfixed by the light, until well past sunset.
This property is blessed with basalt soil and a decent rainfall, which transpires in the lush, sweeping lawns that unify the garden. There is moss in the shadier parts, daisies in the sunnier parts, all adding their sparkle to the magic.
Jennie told us that they have got bolder with their decisions over the years. That they are now happy to try things and to open up canopies and experiment where they might not have risked it earlier on. It is clear that they adore their space, that they have put their heart and soul into creating their piece of paradise and how lucky for Kiloren that its loving owners have such huge artist talent.
I often find gardens that I love. But I rarely find whole properties that I yearn to move into tomorrow. Grand properties are often stunning to look at, but I would hate to be responsible for one. Kiloren has a characterful, homely, cosy house, nestled into the contours of the land, that quite literally hugs the terrace and looks out on to trees and lawn and beautiful, naturalistic planting from each and every window. It almost never happens that everything comes together all at once in the same place, but its masterly creators and owners have meant that Kiloren is one such property.
It is, quite simply, heaven.
You can see more about the garden on its very own website, here.
13 thoughts on “The sophisticated and masterful Kiloren”
It looks effortless Janna and once again my style of garden. These people are clever. Why? Well the Edna Walling gardens I have seen (those in the Mooroolbark Walling Village) had (some years ago when I visited) in the main been untouched – the gardens are ‘maintained’ but not changed, making me think (at the time) that the owners seemed too frightened to change anything and in some cases change was needed. In Edna’s time she planted things such as cotoneaster and several other plants that went rampant (especially in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges) and are now declared environmental weeds. These weeds were still evident and in great thickets in some of these gardens. A shame as we now know so much more and have so much more plant life to draw on (as is evident in Kiloran and that is why the owners are clever – they are not too frightened to change something created by such a well know Master of Design. They are confident in taking ownership of ‘their’ garden. You CAN change the planting without changing the atmosphere of the garden – if you are clever and careful and choose well —- or even add to it (again evident in your photos above of Kiloren). So the lack of change at Edna’s village back then (things may be better now) was disappointing. The one thing that did stay with me though and I found exciting at the time was the light and shade of these gardens (created by the original tree plantings now mature) – just beautiful! In fact is there anything more beautiful than light and shade and shadow and movement in the garden? It make it all so interesting and envigorating and exiting and yes Kiloren has this to the extreme. Another one for the ‘must visit’ list Janna. Oh and those walls are divine, as is all Edna’s stone work!
Well, Adriana, if you want to do more than visit, the property is going on the market soon. You might have to fight me for it though…if only Paul’s work allowed him to be based in Crookwell. It is one of a kind.
I imagine it may well be outside my price range Janna!
Now here’s something that a fashion designer wouldn’t have to consider – can a garden look effortlessly chic without the patina of age?
Absolutely not, it can’t, but then we’re also used to dealing with things doubling in size, then losing half their mass seasonally, not to mention changing colour each month. No wonder it’s so easy to get hooked!
Thankyou for sharing this Janna – I absolutely love this garden – love the concept of effortless chic in a garden too.
There is an excellent effortlessly chic garden I know in Sydney, tucked into a beautiful corner of Hunters Hill. You might be familiar with it, actually….?
Something for me to aim for I think. I can certainly understand the need for regular pruning to balance the light filtering through the mature trees.. they grow so fast and oppressive shade is something we still have far too much of here. If it weren’t for the staggering cost I’d be doing an awful lot of tree work.
I kept thinking of you, Jessica, as I was writing this post. Remember you are only a few years in; Kiloren commenced in 1952! You’ll get there. I have absolute faith in you.
Now that’s an idea, buy a garden with a house! And what a beautiful garden it is. Imagine it will go for a pretty penny. Another great blog Janna, thank you!
Thanks Louise. I’ve always thought I’d like established trees on any future property, but other than that, a blank canvas to work with. However, Kiloren seems to throw all previous ideas out of the window; I’d love it, blank canvas or not!