Drummoyne: a nineteenth century garden.
The account of the visit of the editor of the periodical, John Gelding, is of great interest for a number of reasons. It gives an account of the magnificence of gardens being established in Sydney, around the harbour, in the 1860s as the colony expanded with its new found importance as a self governing 'state'. There is also some mention of the unusual plants from all parts of the world being grown and mention of the famous Australian gardener Sir William Macarthur at Camden. Perhaps more importantly is the stated view of the Chancellor of Sydney University giving the reason why so many wealthy residents of Sydney chose to build grand houses surrounded by wonderful gardens. These gardens were not meant to remind them of the gardens of England but often those of other parts of the world, in particular those of Italy. This is an important part of our history and we should be reminded of it when so many of the houses and gardens have been 'pulled down' by succeeding generations and their gardens built over by suburban bungalows and high rise apartment blocks.
Here is the description:
This estate is situated on the Parramatta River, also opposite the landing place for Hunter's Hill. It comprises about 120 acres, much of which is in its primeval state. But from the waters edge to and around the house, the land is cultivated and formed into compartments, such as kitchen garden, orchard, vineyards, and pleasure grounds.
The ornamental steps and balustrading near the river gives the place an Italian appearance and when the visitor shall have finished his visit, he will no doubt come to the conclusion, that the grounds, when they shall have bee// perfected, will be the beau ideal of one of the many palatial estates that dot the shores of the Italian lakes. The proprietor has allotted a large portion of the land in the vicinity of the house for useful and recreational pursuits. Everything appears to have been laid out in a scale of magnificence which will take years to bring the many alterations and improvements to anything like completeness. So, that in noticing the estate, we can hardly do sufficient justice to it, the more so as it is sometime since we visited it, and time, and the many other duties we have to perform, plays sad havoc with our memory.
On landing at the jetty, we take our course along the eastern side of the estate, the walk is edged with substantial mason work, and the borders are well filled with flowering shrubs, conspicuous among which is the gay Rock sistus. The vineyard near this locality was in splendid condition although the season had been very unfavourable, yet, the vines looked the picture of health, and were also well laden with fruit. The gardener very strongly advocates the trellis system for vine growing, as a greater quantity of fruit can be obtained by this system than by the current bush style; as we have so often advocated the plan, we need hardly say that we fully endorse his views. The gardener's cottage near this spot forms a pleasant relief in the landscape. We were also shown the plants collected by Mr. Wright, during his late visit to the South Sea Islands; among them were the new Anctochilus, Dracoenas, Crotons & c. which were lately exhibited for the establishment of J. R. Young Esq. Pursuing our way we come to a large piece of ground laid out in squares which contains orchard, kitchen garden and pleasure grounds; the walks are of good width, edged with stonework; flowering plants, with larger shrubs, line each side, and are backed up with orange trees and other useful desiderata. Mr. Wright's collection of Azaleas must be first-class, judging from the many named varieties we saw.
Here are also to be found goodly specimens of Camellias, Gardenias, Rhododendrons, Weigelas, both plain and variegated leaved; Jacaranda mimosifolia, Hippeastrums, Magnolia fuscata, White everlasting Peas, Mahonia Leschenaultii, Chimonanthus fragrans, Liriodendron tulipifera, or, tulip tree; Ligustrums, the pretty Acmena pendula, Camphors, Guilder rose, Liliums, and even the Eucharis amazonica, planted in the open ground, and to all appearances thriving well, apropo of this plant, Mr Saunderson stated that he had flowered it some eight or nine years since at Sir William Macarthur's at Camden. As a matter of course the dwelling house is surrounded by a commodious lawn on which are planted here and there goodly specimens of Conifers, among which we perceived a fine specimen of Oxycedrus Pliaenicia. There is also a place in the centre of the lawn for a fine statue of Flora. The grounds from the spot to the river are laid out in the landscape style; the shrubberies that intercept the view are judiciously planted with mandarin oranges, which in our opinion, ought to be more used than it is in making shrubberies, for, independently of its fruit, its foliage is exceedingly beautiful. We also noticed good specimens of Bunya Bunya, Cypresses, and Paulonia imperialis, the leaves of which measured some twenty inches across; taking into consideration the many specimens we saw of this plant, we confidently recommend it for general planting. In pursuing our way, our attention was arrested by a fine planted Cypresses Lawsoniana, which we were informed was the oldest plant of the kind in the colony. On the western side an extensive croquet ground was in the course of formation, the dimensions of which are 140 feet in length, which will no doubt be the largest one in the colony. We were also shown a fine ornamental shrub which Mr. Saunderson believes to be the Negundo Americana.
As we have before stated, we have hardly done justice to this place, and we again hope to again visit it when it shall have been completed, and then we shall unhesitatingly confirm it is one of the most attractive spots in the colony.
We remember being present at one of the commemoration festivals at our Sydney University when the Chancellor, during his speech, mentioned the substance of a conversation which took place between him and an influential resident of Sydney. He was asked why he had laid out such an imposing structure, for a more modest one would answer for generations to come! The Chancellor's answer was, that it was far more creditable to commence a noble structure which succeeding generations could finish, than it was to build and unsightly place for future generations to pull down. And such we suppose is Mr Wright's idea, and hence his reason for planning the estate on a scale of magnificence. We can only add, in conclusion, that what is done appears to be well done, in proof of which we can only state, that the shrubs, trees and vine &c, &c., would lead one to infer that we have had fine seasonable weather instead of a long protracted drought.
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|Publication:||M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2006|
|Previous Article:||The La Trobe Journal No. 70 2002.|
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