The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Garden design and horticulture in Sydney

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935. Sydney. As this is generally considered the principal town in Australia, it is natural that hoiliculture should be more attended to in its neighbourhood than in the neighbourhood of any of the new settlements ; and, consequently, almost all the trees and shrubs that have been introduced into Australia from Europe, have been first planted in the Sydney Botanic Garden. As a curious proof of the excellence of the climate, and its capability of growing the plants of almost every country, Mr. Fraser, the curator of the botanic garden at Sydney in 1828, states, in a paper published by him in the Gardener's Magazine for 1829, that in an exposed part of the garden, the following trees might then be seen growing luxuriantly in a dense thicket formed by themselves: the English ash, elm, lime, and sycamore; the mossy-cupped and English oak; Ery-thrina Corallodendrum, in full flower, Bombax heptaphyllum, Ficus elastica, Gymnocladus canadensis, Tectona grandis, the tea, the olive, and many other plants. In 1832, the prosperity of the colony was very much increased in consequence of all the new grants of land being paid for, instead of being given away as formerly ; and thus the settlers were not only concentrated, but as each person had a smaller quantity of land it was better cultivated. Another circumstance which has done much to increase the horticultural prosperity of Sydney is, the success which has attended planting vines and making wine. The Australian wine is light, resembling sauterne; and the vines grow and produce so abundantly, that an amazing quantity of wine is produced from a comparatively small tract of land. Landscape-gardening in Australia is as yet in its infancy ; but in the neighbourhood of Sydney it has made more progress than in any other part of the colony ; and the following two seats will serve as examples of what has been done. Elizabeth Bay, the seat of Mr. M'Leay, is situated within the town boundary of Sydney, in a delightful situation, bounded on the north by the river and harbour of Port Jackson. On one side is a circular bay half a mile in extent, lying between promontories of considerable elevation. Between these promontories the ground sweeps round by a gradual descent into a low and fertile flat of about ten acres, which has been cleared from the natural wood. The outline of this ground is also circular, terminating in an abrupt slope, beautifully furnished with rocks, trees, and bushes, so as to form a splendid amphitheatre. A range of luxuriant woods and precipitous rocks follows the boundary of the river on the north; and a similar range of woods and rocks extends from the other promontory for half a mile by the side of the water of another large bay, ending in a flat of several acres. It will thus be seen that the site of the estate possesess every possible advantage of wood and water and hill and dale, and that it only required a skilful hand to display these natural beauties to the best advantage. The first thing that Mr. M'Leay did was to prevent too indiscriminate a clearing of the natural woods. 'From the first commencement he never suffered a tree of any kind to be destroyed until he saw distinctly the necessity for doing so.' He thus prevented his place having that bare and naked appearance that villas generally nave when first laid out; and he arranged the planting of his foreign trees in such a manner as to harmonise them with the native ones. The mansion is placed on a flat piece of land, with a gentle elevation rising behind, and with beautiful trees on each side, which form thick masses to the right and left. A splendid open lawn is placed in the main centre front of the house, leaving to view from the adjoining grounds and windows one of the most interesting views of the harbour and shores of Port Jackson. At the extremity of the shrubbery and lawn, walks commence which wind through thickets of trees, naturally grouped among picturesque rocks; and from which the stranger may descend to a carriage road leading to the river. Crossing the road you enter a lattice-work border, covered with passion-flowers, into the botanic garden. A little farther is the kitchen-garden, with pits for producing pine-apples without fire-heat, the gardener's cottage, a vineyard, with sloping terraces covered with vines which are annually loaded with grapes, and, in short, all the appurtenances of a first-rate villa residence. In the general-style of laying out this villa, there is not much difference between it and one of the same size in the neighbourhood of London. The only thing that gives an idea of its being in a foreign country is, the plants with which it is sorrounded, particularly the large luxuriant masses of pelargoniums and roses, and the large size of the native plants which have been left, particularly the casuarinas and banksias, and a few enormous Eucalypti. The lawns on this estate have more the appearance of English grass than any others in the colony, on account of the number of European trees that have been planted, and which have been so arranged at to throw the grass land into shade. Lyndhurst, the seat of Dr. Bowman, is a much smaller place than Elizabeth Bay, but it contains about fifty acres of land. The house has three fronts, which open on a mown grass lawn of considerable extent. The house is placed on a flat piece of ground, about two hundred yards from the river. The offices are enclosed within a high wall at the back of the house, and are well arranged. A tank of large dimensions has been sunk in the back yard, supplied by pipes from the roof of the house, and it is built of brick and covered with cement, with a drain at the bottom. The coach house and stables are built out of sight of the house, park, and pleasure-grounds. The kitchen-garden is in a valley behind the stables: the soil is a rich loam, and it is laid out with straight walks, and has been planted with fruit-trees. The carriage-sweep forms an exact oval the whole width of the front of the house, the centre of the oval being mown grass. No clumps have been planted on the lawn, as the great object has been to secure breadth of effect; and, on this account also, the lawn is only divided from the paddock by an invisible iron fence. There is, however, a light shrubbery on each side of the lawn ; and masses of native wood have been preserved at the back of the house. (Shepherd's Lectures on Landscape-Gardening in Australia.)