The sophisticated and masterful Kiloren

The Churchills converted this former sheep paddock into a wild garden in the early 1980s

The wild garden at Kiloren was formed from a disused sheep paddock in the early 1980s

Traditionally, when we think of highly sophisticated gardens, it’s often grand parterres and well-clipped, formal hedges and topiary that come to mind.

Rhododendrons at Kiloren

Rhododendrons at Kiloren

But sophistication,

“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?

There are so many stunning vistas at Kiloren; here looking through the trees towards the converted swimming pool (notice the little wildlife ramp at the far side; so sweet!)

There are so many stunning vistas at Kiloren; here looking through the trees towards the converted swimming pool (notice the little wildlife ramp at the far side; so sweet!)

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.

Looking up from the house terrace; it's a breakfast view I could cope with!

Looking up from the house terrace; it’s a breakfast view I could cope with!

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.

Subtle mix of plants look wonderful against the beautiful stone wall

Subtle mix of plants look wonderful against the beautiful stone wall

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.

It's hard to fault the colours, forms, textures and light in this setting

It’s hard to fault the colours, forms, textures and light in this setting

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.

Beautiful stones surround this pond at Kiloren

Beautiful stones surround this pond at Kiloren

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.

I love the merging of woodland plants into the grassy paths

I love the merging of woodland plants into the grassy paths

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.

This is naturalistic planting at its best; look at the seedlings in this original Edna Walling wall

Naturalistic planting doesn’t get much better than this; look at the seedlings in this original Edna Walling wall

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!

I adore this simple, timber gate, here lit up in the soft afternoon sun

I adore this simple, timber gate, here lit up in the soft afternoon sun

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.

The house seems to sink into the garden; both merge into one another

The house seems to sink into the garden; both merge into one another

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.

Water bowls around the garden bring a peaceful mood

Water bowls around the garden bring a peaceful mood

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.

I love the soft edges to the paths and the overspilling planting

I love the soft edges to the paths and the overspilling planting

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.

Majestic trees, including this English oak, with gravity defying limbs seem to sweep the contours of the land; every feature in this garden looks 'meant to be'

Majestic trees, including this English oak with gravity defying limbs, seem to sweep the contours of the land; every feature in this garden looks ‘meant to be’

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.

There are original Edna Walling walls and some later additions, all built with local stone to Edna's proportions

There are original Edna Walling walls and some later additions, all built with local stone to Edna’s proportions

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.

The light on these perennials is just divine

The light on these perennials is just divine

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.

Kiloren is nestled into the landscape perfectly

Kiloren is nestled into the landscape perfectly

It is, quite simply, heaven.

Naturalistic planting at Kiloren

Naturalistic planting at Kiloren

You can see more about the garden on its very own website, here.

13 thoughts on “The sophisticated and masterful Kiloren

  1. Adriana Fraser says:

    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!

    • jannaschreier says:

      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!

  2. Sally Stobo says:

    Thankyou for sharing this Janna – I absolutely love this garden – love the concept of effortless chic in a garden too.

  3. rusty duck says:

    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.

    • jannaschreier says:

      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.

  4. Louise Dutton says:

    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!

    • jannaschreier says:

      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!

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