“In Spite of difficulties, there seems to be a need to make gardens. Since the year dot, people have needed to create beauty in the landscape around them, to put their own thumbprint on the land, to be surrounded by the familiar”. – Myles Baldwin, Rural Australian Gardens
When we first decided to purchase a property in Leura, Blue Mountains, my thoughts turned to the garden. After all, Leura is famous for her tree lined streets and well crafted English cottage gardens, many of which had been designed by the
landscape gardener Paul Edwin Bielenberg Sorensen who was born in Copenhagen in 1891 and moved to the mountains in or around 1920. In fact Sorensen’s first job was the Carrington in Katoomba and although he started with undertaking garden maintenance jobs he soon was commissioned by the mountains more wealthier clients to design and plant their gardens and has as a result left quite a mark on the region. To the mountain folk Sorensen is a legend and it is only fitting then that there was is a bridge visible from the highway that is named in his honour. One of Sorensen’s most notable works would have to be The Everglades, a garden open to the public and boasting of such serenity and beauty.
I wanted our house to also be surrounded by a garden that would find itself at home and create that serenity that I had always loved in a garden. My search for ideas started on Pinterest as I clicked and pinned my way from one garden to another.
During the process I began to learn more and more about various types of plants and soon terms such as perennials and annuals became less foreign to me as they once were. Still the more I dug the more of a mess I was left with. It is one thing to create a simple garden bed but it is another to design a cottage English garden that would be low maintenance, beautiful and also cover an expanse of almost 1500 square meters. Additionally, the Blue Mountains City Council had all sorts of rules and restrictions when it came to what trees could be uprooted and what was planted. I was in above my head.
One thing that my googling did uncover was a name that seemed to stand out in the world of garden design- Myles Baldwin. He seemed to be the celebrity gardener with an awesome portfolio of gardens and a reputation to match and to me the cherry on top of the cherry would have to be the fact he wrote the book! I absolutely loved his garden designs and thought that Leura would be a perfect place for Myles to work his magic.
So, not knowing what I was to expect, or how much it would cost, I contacted Myles and arranged to meet him at the site in Leura. I am not sure what his first impression was because the site was more of a jungle rather than the garden it once was. In fact I have heard from one of our neighbours that the land was once a Sorensen nursery, but alas time had altered this place and even Sorensen himself would have been lost for words. Myles, ever the professional, still came all the way from the Eastern Suburbs where his office is located to the mountains. He still seemed interested in undertaking the design and listened to me patiently talk about what I wanted and how much I had to spend. I am pretty sure he was laughing when I told him what my budget was but it wasn’t long before I had to revise my budget and Myles got to work.
When designing the garden Myles had a few obstacles to get over. The Site was not without its challenges. The property was gently sloping but there was a large part of the property, particularly at the bottom of the slope, that was Riparian land, an interface between land and a river or stream. One could not build on it but you also had to be careful about what was planted there. Further, a lot of money was going to be spent in respect to retaining walls and the construction that would help form the garden and create a layered approach to its presentation.
The other challenge was that the property is a battle-axe block surrounded by other properties. It was important that we designed the garden with sufficient screening that did not hinder our neighbours properties more than we had to. In many ways we liked how one garden flowed into another with only a chicken wire fence defining the boundaries. To find screening plants that did the Job meant that it would have to be of certain size and maturity and cover a very long boundary. All this seemed to eat into our budget like flies to a meat pie.
When I saw what Myles had in plan for the garden my excitement could be likened to Willy Wonka’s glass elevator taking off and breaking free into the cloudy expanse. I was simply ecstatic. Myles sent the Plant Images and Myles Baldwin Site Plan to the council together with our Development Application submitted by Story Book.
Now the greatest challenge is to actually plant and construct this Myles designed garden with as little compromise as possible. That dear friends is where the real obstacle lies.
After all, I would hate to disappoint Myles.