Monthly Archives: January 2016

Wendy Whiteley’s garden, bringing solace and joy

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Early on New Year’s Day 2016 Sydney was a very quiet place after a big night of fireworks and parties.

We took advantage of the quiet to visit a wonderful public garden with an extraordinary story.

Brett Whiteley, a famous Australian painter and his wife Wendy, also an artist, settled in Lavender Bay, a secluded inlet on Sydney’s north side.

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Brett Whiteley called this place ”optical ecstasy” and many of his paintings reflected these scenes.

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Brett Whiteley died in 1992 aged 52, and tragically the couple’s only daughter, died of a rare cancer in 2001.

After Brett’s death Wendy, in her grief, began clearing an overgrown dump of derelict public land below their house.

Over 20 years she poured her money, creative skills, energy and emotion into transforming  the wasteland by the harbour into a public garden.

The Moreton Bay Fig is the feature point of the garden, and its magnificent trunk and branches seem to reach protectively over the garden.

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It is a challenging steep site, but over time, steps and paths have been built, first by Wendy and some faithful gardeners, and now by many volunteers as well.

Sydney has a wonderful climate for many different plants, and gradually the plants have almost engulfed the paths in some areas.IMG_7925 (1024x857)Wendy, has no background in horticulture. However, she has the artist’s eye for colour, shape and texture and design.

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IMG_7881 (1024x771)As a child Wendy loved the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Secret Garden. This garden began as her secret garden, a place where the physical needs of the garden gave her a distraction from grief, but also a place of solitude, and in time, replenishment.

As the garden developed it gradually became more than Wendy’s garden, it became a haven for many people who come to sit for a while in the cool dappled shade, read a book, or simply enjoy the lush green plants…. away from noisy city life.

the power of the garden….

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Wendy says ”Loss is something all people end up dealing with one way or another. Sometimes it can be too much, but I have learnt we must give ourselves time to get over the stages of grieving. The amazing thing about life is that deep sadness can, in its own time eventually lead you on the path to renewal and discovery….

IMG_7947 (1024x738)………This garden started as therapy, but it’s gone way beyond that, into a joyous celebration of life and nature, and a desire to share. I transformed an ugly wasteland into a beautiful garden, and along the way, the garden transformed me.”

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As this is public land, the future of the garden was precarious, but in October 2015 the NSW government gave the garden a 30 year lease with a 30 year renewal option.

Many thanks to Wendy for building a garden such as this in a time of grief, and now it is available for all to share, in a quiet and caring way.

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Summertime with the birds

Here comes trouble…

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I wonder how long it would take me to undo that?

IMG_3281 (909x1024)       Just waiting for my buddies…

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Time to crack open a few almonds sitting on the carport roof……

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and he said and she said…

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Meanwhile, early morning in the garden on a very hot day, all the birdbaths are ready…

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magpies always wait their turn….

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Wattle birds are in and out like a flash, drying off on the camellias…

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Softly, softly, with parrots, much too shy to come out if the cockatoos are around

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and for the sheer joy of living, here is our baby magpie enjoying the sprinkler…

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Oh the sheer anticipation of that sprinkler…here I go….

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..adrenaline rush…..Quick back up on the pot to do it all again..

Where would we be without them?

 

 

 

Sydney turns on the charm at Strickland House

This year we spent the Christmas break with family and friends in this most beguiling of cities, Sydney. A perfect time to look at some of Sydney’s  green spaces.

IMG_7805 (1024x623)My brother suggested we visit one of Sydney’s best kept secrets, Strickland House, Vaucluse.

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This house was designed and built in the 1850s, with a looped carriage entrance, pathways and a backdrop of wonderful mature trees. It was originally called ”Carrara”‘IMG_7641 (1024x660)
Some of the trees include Himalayan chir pine, stone pines from the Mediterranean, hoop pines, Port Jackson (or rusty fig), a giant bamboo, African Olives, a large mature tuckeroo, a Canary Island date palm and on site is a Tipu tree from Bolivia.

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These trees now provide a wonderful buffer against the outside world.

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Strickland House was originally the home of John Hosking, Sydney’s second mayor. It is a Victorian Italianate mansion, made from three storeys of sandstone and featuring verandahs with Doric columns.

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There are two trees on the right hand side of the building, and the smaller one (slightly hidden) is an evergreen magnolia from the Southern USA…flowering gloriously while we were there.

From 1879 to 1888 the owner of the house, Hon Henry Moore MLC had 12 children, and the youngest son, Verner, said they were invited on board ships anchored in the bay and would return the hospitality by having people visit them in Strickland House.

The long lawns of the property  take us down to the bay and a small beach. (Milk beach)

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In 1914 the Foreshores Resumption scheme in New South Wales bought back land along the foreshore of Sydney for public use.

Oh how wonderfully enlightened they were!

IMG_7647 (1024x601)To the left of Milk Beach is the harbour walk to Rose Bay.

However, today we are taking the path to the right of Milk Beach to Nielson park.

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IMG_7744 (1024x802)With sandstone stairs and magnificent rock formations on one side, and wonderful views of the harbour on the other.

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A short pleasant walk and we are at Nielson ParkIMG_7784 (1024x737)

This beautiful little beach is at Nielson Park. It is early in the morning, and swimmers are enjoying the soft white sand and gentle sunlight before the crowds get here.

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Paul has a swim and then we sit under the shade of the Port Jackson fig tree and sip some coffee as we watch the harbour slowly waking up.

The busy Manly ferry goes by taking people into the city, many returning to work after the Christmas break.

We feel slightly as if we have died and gone to heaven…

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On the edge of Nielson Park is another historic home, Greycliffe House, also built in the 1850s, looking splendid in Rustic Gothic style.

We take a small local road back to our car, amazing trees and shrubs to the left of us, and unparalled views of Sydney Harbour to the right.

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An early morning  yacht sailing past Shark Island.

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IMG_7637 (1024x610)Not far from Strickland House we take another look at this unbelievable view on such a wonderful day. The gardens and the grounds of the Strickland House site make one of the finest habourside parks in Sydney.

It makes sobering reading to see how many times Strickland House and grounds have almost been sold off by successive state governments….congratulations to the Woollahra Council and the communities who have fought to have this historic home and grounds remain public for all to enjoy.