December 12, 2019

In the garden: A garden worth celebrating

An avid gardener has fulfilled her childhood dream with a Hills estate that would impress the most ardent horticulturist.

There’s a pecking order among the feathered residents of Cricklewood garden at Aldgate. Once they are released from their coop, the ISA brown chooks form a roaming pack to patrol the pretty acreage. “They have so much attitude and are afraid of nothing,” says Charlotte, who has lived here with her family for three years. The brown chooks have the better of Harold the rooster, who trails behind with the other black leghorns. “He should be leading the pack, but the little leghorns are more circumspect.” 

The free-range chooks are the groundskeepers of this well-manicured property, which has been entirely transformed since Charlotte and her family took it over five years ago. During the first two years, they renovated the late 1800s villa and built a modern addition to the home, while the dormant garden was overhauled and restructured.

“The first thing we did was take out two huge pines, which were blocking all of our northern light,” Charlotte says. “Then we put in a bore, because I knew that the type of garden I wanted to create was going to need watering throughout summer. It’s made an enormous difference.”

Transformed in just a few years, the garden is now just as spectacular as the home. The quick change was helped along by a number of deadlines that had to be met for family celebrations, namely a 21st birthday, an engagement and even a wedding. 

Early on, Charlotte planted Wedding Day roses to climb an archway. She must have had a premonition, because a couple of years later the arch served as an entrance to a new sunken lawn area, which hosted her daughter’s nuptials. On the day, guests walked through the arch onto the lawn, which sits underneath two glorious ancient oaks. The surrounding garden beds were planted only with white flowering daisies, azaleas, gardenias and clematis.

Charlotte says it was a joy to see her daughter married here. “It has been great to have the garden to host some fabulous parties since we moved in.” 

The garden is mostly green through winter, with the euphorbias, camellias, hellebores and citrus trees providing some blooms until the change of season when the many varieties of bulbs start to emerge and announce that the rest of the garden is not far behind.

“It looks so pretty when the cherry trees are in blossom, the elms and gingko trees are all in fresh green leaf, and the Japanese maples unveil their red leaves. I’m not a restrained gardener; the more colour and scent I can squeeze into a garden bed, the happier I am,” she says. 

Charlotte has developed a new love for hydrangeas, which do particularly well in the Adelaide Hills. She uses ash from the house’s wood fire to feed the soil in her homemade hydrangea nursery. “The ash helps keep the soil alkaline and the flowers a beautiful deep pink.”

The north-facing garden beds are structured with an English influence. Clipped English box hedges have been planted out to create a strong framework for an ever-changing display of roses and perennials. The rose beds are planted with snowdrops and white anemone. White irises grow from the fishpond, while the nearby horizontal hawthorn trees are a quintessential feature of the Adelaide Hills. 

The garden to the south is an informal woodland. Spring sees an explosion of forget-me-nots and bluebells around crab apples, lilacs, wallflowers and hellebores, along with dogwoods and crepe myrtles that combine to create a vivid canvas of colour, helped along by compost from the chicken coop. 

The potting shed is an endearing feature, which was built using old windows and stone removed from the villa during the renovation. Charlotte’s propagations are sheltered here during winter to protect the tips from frost. In spring they are brought into the sun before being planted out into the garden.

Cricklewood reminds Charlotte of her childhood spent at her grandmother’s beautiful garden in Stirling. Learning plant types and soaking up her expert knowledge of Hills gardening were integral parts of her upbringing. “She had two amazing gardens and that’s how I grew to love the Hills, its seasons and its wonderful community spirit,” she says.

A pair of weeping cherry trees and Papa Meilland climbing roses in Charlotte’s garden trigger fond memories. “That was my grandmother’s favourite rose and she also had a gorgeous standard cherry tree, which is lovely because these ones remind me of her,” she says.

“Now it’s just a matter of maturity and enjoying the changes with the seasons. My grandmother would have loved to see this property, but she certainly didn’t have any chooks messing up her garden.” 


This story first appeared in the October 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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