Everglades Gardens: How An Historic Garden Developed
A Classic Blue Mountains Garden and Art Deco House
Everglades Garden was the ultimate backyard for Henri Van Velde, a wealthy Sydney businessman in the 1930’s.
Van Velde was inspired initially by another Blue Mountains garden, Dean Park, and it’s designer, Paul Sorenson. Sorenson was, and still is renowned to be one of Australia’s greatest landscapers, and ultimately Van Velde enlisted Sorenson’s services in the development of Everglades. The property is now managed by the National Trust of New South Wales (Australia), and is open to the public daily from 9am to 5pm.
We can learn a great deal from the systematic way Sorenson developed this and other gardens, and by applying a similar approach to developing our own landscapes, no matter how small.
Step 1. Decide What to Keep
Sorenson’s first task was always to decide which features to retain, and which to change. Mishapen or damaged trees were removed, but desirable specimens were marked for retention.
The lower part of the property has magnificent views of the Jamison Valley…these were retained.
Step 2. Create "Garden Rooms"
Sorenson decided to separate the views of the Jamison Valley from the more formal garden areas – thus creating separate garden rooms, each with their own charm and grandeur.
For some it would have seemed strange to purposefully obscure the view from the formal terraces; but for Sorenson, the garden had greater interest if it was made impossible to see the total layout from any single position.
Step 3. Deal with the Physical Problems
The two major problems with this site were the steep slope, and the poor soil. Sorenson solved these problems in a simple, yet brilliant way. The relatively thin soil was dug over by hand. The stones in the soil were removed and stockpiled. A series of terraces was then created and the stone used to construct walls and pathways.
Step 4. Create a series of vistas and features of interest
While the house is definitely art deco in style; the garden contains features which are of various styles. The garden theatre is a formal terrace with a classic temple built into a wall at one end. Sculpture close to the house is more contemporary to the art deco era, but further away from the house, you can find sculpture that is classical in style.
By the late 1930’s, Everglades was a garden of some note, renowned for its sweeping banks of rhododendrons and extensive carpets of colourful annuals. These extravagant displays of annuals are no longer – too costly to maintain today, but the broad structure of the design remains much as it was over 50 years ago, Everglades today is a mature and majestic garden, divided into a variety of distinct areas, each with it’s own character and attraction. It is an inspiration to any garden enthusiast or designer, particularly if they look beyond first impressions. When you study the garden today, and the way that plants, stone and other features have been arranged, you cannot help but be amazed at the foresight shown by Sorenson and Van Velde.
This is a garden that was once a high maintenance property, but which can still survive and retain it’s essence even after those high levels of maintenance have been removed. How many of us could cut the attention we give to our gardens by 75% and still have something that looks good?
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