Well, Spring has officially sprung and the long hard Winter is over, even though I accept that we have it much easier than some other areas inland or at lower latitudes and higher altitudes! The frosts are pretty persistent though, especially this last Winter!!
To celebrate the demise of Winter, I have written two posts about a few gardens worth visiting next Winter! Last June, we headed north to see my mum in Queensland, so we wanted to visit a few bucket-list gardens along the way, particularly those who shone in Winter!
Here in Australia, they include camellia gardens and those devoted to Australian and South African natives. While July is probably the peak time to view camellias, it is also school holiday time with accommodation in short supply and lots of holidaymakers, so we decided to travel in June and take our chances and we were not disappointed! This week, I am featuring two very special camellia gardens, while next week, we will visit two native gardens.
EG Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens
104 President Avenue Caringbah South NSW 2229
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm; Weekends and Public holidays 9.30am to 5 pm.
Closed on Good Friday; Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Named after Professor Eben Gowrie Waterhouse (1881-1977), an international camellia expert and linguist, who was the first President of the International Camellia Society in 1962, this 2 hectare camellia garden was opened in July 1970. It was a Bicentenary project of the Sutherland Shire Council to commemorate the landing of Captain James Cook at Kurnell in 1770.It was established on the site of the old Matson Pleasure Grounds, a recreational complex, which was developed by Frederick Francis Matson in 1902 on the shores of Ewey (now Yowie) Bay and hosted many picnics, dances and boating events until its closure in World War One.We parked on President Avenue and entered from the top of the gardens, but they can also be accessed via a lower gate and parking area off Kareena Rd. It was a wet day, but fortunately we were able to wander round the garden between showers, even enjoying some welcome Winter sunshine, before retreating to the tea house with the next downpour! The Devonshire tea and scones were an added bonus!Outside the tea room is a fountain dedicated to Captain Cook’s wife Elizabeth (1742-1835), who is often in the shadows, so it was great to learn a little about her life. She certainly was a stayer! I was amazed to read that she really only spent 4 years of her married life of 17 years with Cook and that she outlasted him by 56 years, dying at the age of 93 on 13 May 1835. She also outlasted all her six children, including two of which died in infancy, with her last surviving son dying in 1794.
She would have seen so many changes in her lifetime from the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746; the Seven Years War between Britain and France from 1756 to 1763; the Boston Tea Party 1773 and the American War of Independence 1775 to 1783; the storming of the Bastille in Paris and the French Revolution in July 1789; the Battle of Trafalgar 1805 and the Battle of Waterloo 1815; and the reigns of Mad King George (George 111) and his sons George IV 1820 and William IV 1830. It was also the age of slavery and its eventual abolition; the start of the Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1820) and the development of the first railway between Stockton and Darlington in 1825; and the start of Australia’s colonial history with the first fleet of convicts arriving in May 1787.But back to the camellias! There are over 600 camellias in the garden with over 450 individual species and cultivars, which can also be seen in the digital catalogue on the Camellias Australia website, as well as in a register kept at Sutherland Library. See: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/e-g-waterhouse-national-camellia-gardens/.
Many of the camellias are quite old and rare, forming a Camellia Ark of 75 endangered cultivars and species. For more about this project, see: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/camellia-ark/. It is a fabulous initiative!
In March 2014, the gardens were awarded the International Camellia Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society and they are only one of forty such gardens in the world and the only one in New South Wales. See: https://internationalcamellia.org/about-this-programme.
While we were a little early for the full spectacular display, we still saw a number of them in flower. The camellia season starts in Autumn with the blooming of Camellia sasanqua (Autumn to early Winter), followed by Camellia japonica varieties from late Autumn to Winter and Camellia reticulata from midwinter to September/ October.
They are in turn followed by Spring annuals, then roses during the Summer months. Paths meander through the garden, leading to lush lawns, a creek and two duck ponds. It really is a lovely small garden and is popular with picnickers and wedding parties.If you love camellias and your appetite still needs satisfying, then a visit to the old home of the great man himself is essential!
Eryldene Historic Home and Garden
17 McIntosh Street Gordon NSW 2072
Ph (02) 9498 2271
Open every second weekend from April to September from 10am to 4pm.
Adults $12; Children (6 to 16 years) $5; Family (2 adults and 2 children) $30; Concession (Seniors and students) $10; Eryldene and National Trust members Free.
This is the camellia lovers’ mecca! We adored this garden for its camellias naturally, but also its history, architecture and oriental aesthetics. Built for Gowrie and Janet Waterhouse in 1914 in collaboration with neo-colonial architect William Hardy Wilson, ‘Eryldene’ was named after Janet Waterhouse’s family home in Kilmarnock, Scotland. It is a beautiful house and guided tours are conducted on the hour, but again because of the rain, we explored the garden first up!The one-acre garden is a series of garden rooms, which contain a number of delightful architectural features including a temple, built from six recycled ionic columns, and flanked by two specimens of the camellia, La Pace Rubra, both planted back in 1914 ; an outdoor study, the professor’s retreat from the hectic bedlam of four boisterous sons; a walled fountain; a Georgian-style pigeon house with a gilded tympanum; a Moon Gate and tennis court; an oriental Tea House with gold-tipped vermilion flagpoles for blue and red dragon flags; a meditation garden with a sculptured rock pool and a Georgian-style timber screen.There are also many beautiful large old camellias, as well as Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons, datura and windflowers.
During our visit, I discovered that apparently, camellias had fallen out of favour at the end of the 19th Century. Nevertheless, Professor Waterhouse still planted six camellias in 1914, four of which still survive today: two specimens of La Pace Rubra at the entrance to the Temple and a Contessa Collini and Iris either side of the front gate. By the time of his death in 1977, aged 97, he had collected 700 camellias, many growing in tubs.In between exploring the garden and the old house, we enjoyed a cuppa in the one of the two loggias, originally the boys’ bedrooms. Mrs Waterhouse was a strong believer in the health benefits of bracing cold fresh air!Eryledene is listed on the National Estate and the NSW Heritage Register and it is worth reading the following website for more detail about the property: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5045350.
It is now managed by the Eryldene Trust and maintained by the Friends of Eryldene, many of whom belong to NSW Branch of the Australian Camellia Research Society (http://www.camelliasnsw.org/), as well as Camellias Australia (http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/).
They are such a friendly and informative group and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon with them. They also recommended a future visit to another local camellia garden, Lisgar Gardens (http://www.hornsby.nsw.gov.au/lifestyle/sports-and-recreation/parks-and-playgrounds/lisgar-gardens). Maybe next time!Next week, we will be visiting two wonderful inspiring native gardens, the Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan and the Blue Mountains Garden at Mt Tomah.