A stroll amidst camellias

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Large potted Camellia, right, at Eryldene

Today was a pleasant day to pay a visit to Eryldene at Gordon. This was the home of modern languages academic Professor EG Waterhouse (1881-1977) for 63 years. Around a beautifully designed house, he planted a garden comprising mainly Camellia, starting with six specimens in 1914. At this time, Camellia were not in vogue. Professor Waterhouse became very interested in the genus, researching the plants and propagating new varieties, helping to bring them back into fashion. With one of his sons, he established Camellia Grove Nursery in St Ives (now in Glenorie), enabling Sydney gardeners to obtain a wide variety of cultivars for their gardens.

Camellia Maroon and Gold, at Eryldene

It is one of the classic Sydney gardens, and has influenced many of our own plots over the years. A framework of mature Camellia, many of them tree-like in stature, forms the garden structure. Many of these have had their lower limbs removed to raise the canopy, allowing plants to be grown beneath them. Camellia are also used for screens within the garden and many are grown in large pots. Clipped azalea plants are used extensively: another of the iconic plants in historic Sydney gardens.

Camellia Eryldene Excelsis, at Eryldene

Some of the Camellia, such as 'Eryldene Excelsis' are ones imported or developed by Professor Waterhouse and are unique to this garden. At the moment, the stars of the garden are Camellia japonica, with their large stunning blooms in various floral shapes, from exquisite formal doubles to flamboyant semi-double forms.

Carpet of Camellia petals, Eryldene

The petals of some of the blooms drop to form a pretty carpet around the trees. Camellia flowers were also placed to float in some of the water features placed around the garden. Because of the canopy of mature plantings, it is a shady garden in many parts, and there are attractive shade-loving specimens growing beneath the Camellia, including windflowers, violets, forget-me-nots, maidenhair ferns, Acanthus mollis, Liriope and the silvery-veined groundcover Saxifraga stolonifera.

Dovecote at Eryldene

Laid out as a series of outdoor 'rooms', there is a wonderfully serene atmosphere in the garden. This is enhanced by the cooing of some pristine white doves in a dovecote nearby to Professor Waterhouse's garden study, built in 1921 as a refuge to enable him to get his work done away from the distractions of a four-boy family in the main house! There is a distinct oriental influence in both the house and garden, with a number of Chinese sculptures in the garden, a teahouse and a 'moon gate'. An ancient Jacaranda tree (another favourite of Sydney gardeners) planted at the front of the house was pruned so that it would cast interesting patterned shadows onto the roof.

Floating Camellia flowers, Eryldene

The plantings are being preserved as an authentic record of Professor Waterhouse's garden. The property is now owned and run by a trust and is open a number of times a year. I know that it had a influence on me when I first became a gardeners and I was pleased to see that I now grow many of the plants I first saw there as a complete novice many years ago, not having a clue what they were! Visit their website for more information.