A secret garden

wendy whiteley garden

Just beyond Clark Park in Sydney’s Lavender Bay, down a set of unmarked steps, and on past a tall white house with an intriguing turret room stands a little piece of heaven. I think it’s thanks to Frances Hodgson Burnett that I find it hard to resist the idea of a secret garden, and yet it’s taken me eight years of Sydney-living to make it to Wendy Whiteley’s beautiful creation.

According to various internet sources, Wendy, wife of the artist Brett Whiteley, honed the garden from a derelict, refuse-strewn piece of public land beside their home (the aforementioned white house) to honour her late husband. She poured her grief and her love into its creation and it is a gorgeous welcoming spot –  less neat National Trust perfection and more rambling, natural artistry. Below the huge Morton Bay figs tiered steps and paths lead you up and down and around into the lower glade that eventually butts up to a railway line. As you meander, there are glimpses of harbour and city skyline, as well as benches and sculptures to discover.

I sometimes look to nature for inspiration and the overwhelming feeling while wandering about this unpretentious space was one of patience and love. There was a sense of deep and personal intimacy about the garden, even though we stood there on a plot of public land. (As if to emphasise this, just as we were leaving I felt my husband’s gentle nudge as he pointed out Wendy herself, elbow-deep in a flowerbed pulling weeds.)  If you find yourself on the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I highly recommend a visit.

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. I feel like I know you through your books, just beautiful writing. I am a mother of children of the same age and I am so incredibly sorry to hear of your husband. I can’t even imagine what you are going through.

  2. This is so very lovely, the words and the vision. I lived in Sydney for a few years, in Bondi, and never found this. I guess we were afflicted with that peculiar Bondism, wherein you rarely leave that place,though I have a Brett Whitely self portrait (card) on my bedroom mantelpiece, strangely Japanese in appearance.
    Next time I am in Sydney, I will seek this out.
    Thank you.

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