By Kitty Von Tastique
Drifts of azaleas are tended by dutiful bees while bluebells nod happily nearby. Dappled sunlight filters down onto the tulips, magnolias and lilacs, growing happily next to gum trees and waratahs.
Meanwhile a beautiful Kookaburra perches cheerily above, in an ancient pine. Such is the gorgeous and balanced symphony that is the garden at Everglades, in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia.
This beautiful garden was designed by landscape designer Paul Sorensen and commissioned by Industrialist Henri Van De Velde in the 1930s. The moderne-style house on the property was finished in 1936 and includes miles of curvaceous stone walls and paths that are a Sorensen signature style.
The land was previously home to an overgrown orchard and native bushland but over four years the new garden emerged; a unison of romantic European elements, modernism and the Australian 'bush'.
Exotic plants and trees were imported from Europe, America and Asia, and planted side-by-side with the stunning native flora. The garden design also included both formal and informal gardens, making use of the landscape by stepping the garden down the hillside.
The mass plantings of colour were once described by a reporter in 1938 as having the heroic scale of a Wagner opera and today I can attest to the fact that they are still like giant waves of sherbert across a canvas of muted green. The brightness of the introduced species seems almost surreal against the more subdued tones of the Australian bush, yet somehow they seem perfectly balanced together.
The home on the property is also of the epic variety. The original furnishings are gone but the beautiful bones of the house remain. The warm monotone hues of the butter-coloured stucco washes over the entire property with only Van De Velde's private rust-coloured bathroom and the ornate black stairwell as contrast. A huge Venus-like bath takes pride of place in his wife Una's palatial bathroom and views are framed out of well-planned windows to make the enigmatic vistas of the Blue Mountains themselves, the star of most of the rooms.
These days the home is owned by the National Trust and staffed by local volunteers. Scott Pollock manages the property today and is indeed a man with a huge legacy to nurture. To his credit, Everglades is still the beautiful jewel she always was, still drawing huge crowds to take in her fabulous gardens. It's great to know that Everglades will remain forever in bloom, thanks to all who continue to maintain her coat of many colours.
If you are visiting the Blue Mountains make sure you stop in to say 'hello' to this grand old dame of gardens gone-by and appreciate the unlikely yet harmonious legacy now enjoyed by the kookaburras, the azaleas and the tourists that visit Everglades every single day.
PUBLISHED IN VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2017