Leura's heritage garden saves its grand view for last
May 24, 2019
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There is nothing subtle about the view from Everglades, the Leura garden that landscaper Paul Sorensen designed for Henry Van de Velde in the 1930s. It's a Blue Mountains poster shot of mountain ridges stretching out to a clouded horizon, catching sunlight on their rusty rocks faces and mists in their folds and valleys. Everglades, the Leura garden that Paul Sorensen designed for Henry Van de Velde in the 1930s. Credit:Robin Powell
The temptation with a great view is to place it front and centre, with a garden, and especially trees, never allowed to get in the way. But Sorensen's approach is more subtle. The driveway curves down the slope from the street, with only glimpses of blue sky and blue mountains through a dense arboretum of deciduous trees and conifers. Two paths are offered. One leads down to The Glades, where a fern-edged creek meanders to the Grotto Pool and waterfall, formed by a giant rock manhandled into position over the creek by Sorensen's Depression-era labour force. The other path leads down a series of terraces. These are dry-stone walled using rocks found on the property, including naturally curved ones that form niches and ellipses for seep holes and taps: the whole effect is like an abstract stone mural. Advertisement
The terraces offer zigzagging view points: into the garden, and then over the mountains, until you arrive at the house. Credit:Robin Powell
There's a Garden Theatre here, with clipped cypress flats and a fountain backed by a classically carved sandstone arch Sorensen had Van de Velde salvage from the London Chartered Bank of Australia building he was tearing down to build his Feltex headquarters. Finally, at the end of the terrace, a wisteria-hung pergola frames the view, its enormity all the more impressive for its delayed reveal. The terraces offer zigzagging view points: into the garden, and then over the mountains, until you arrive at the house, which Sorensen also designed in Art Deco style. Not a man who suffered fools, Sorensen reveals an unexpected sense of humour in the wrought iron panels that form "windows" in the courtyard that links the house to the garden. Like an Art Deco cartoon, the panels tell the story of Van de Velde's much-adored dog chasing the resident peacock down into the valley, and the heroic gardener who retrieved it. Everglades, a National Trust property, is open every day. Credit:Robin Powell
When I visited, the story was backgrounded by the brilliant tones of autumn. If you're quick you might catch the last of the autumn foliage, and if not, the garden in winter shows its bones, with maybe an icy glaze on the reflective pool making the opportunity of Devonshire tea in the breakfast room of the house, watching the mist curling in the valley, all the more appealing. If you don't own a beanie you might want to wait until spring, when the weeping cherries bloom on the cherry terrace, the white "Shirotae" cherry is mirrored in the reflective pool and wisteria hangs a purple fringe on that view. Everglades is a National Trust property, open every day, 10am - 4pm, 37 Everglades Avenue, Leura.