October 5, 2022

Lost and Found

An Adelaide Hills garden that one family has treated to a painstaking restoration over a period of more than a decade will be open to visitors once again later this year.

As trains first chugged along the Adelaide Hills railway in the 1880s, Adelaide’s most prominent citizens began building their summer houses in the prestigious Stirling area. Evesham is the lasting legacy of one of those parcels of land.

Named after the popular Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott, Evesham was established in the late 1870s. In the 1930s, Herbert Montefiore Jackman – the son of South Australian architect Herbert Louis Jackman – purchased the property and transformed what had been a modest dwelling into a substantial arts-and-crafts building.

Almost a century later in 2009, medical specialists Paul and Irina Hollington purchased the Crafers West property. They had been looking for a house and garden they could put some work into to create a home for their young family.

“We spent a lot of time looking for an old house we could renovate and when we found this one, the garden and the house both had a lot of potential,” Paul says.

The garden’s winding pathways are edged and stepped with local bluestone and sandstone, which have been blended with original stonework.
After three years of renovations, Paul and Irina have a beautiful, modern home that blends seamlessly with the original, heritage arts-and-crafts design.

When the couple moved in, Paul says the property resembled the Lost Gardens of Heligan – swamped with ivy and agapanthus among hundreds of self-seeded Portuguese laurel and holly saplings.

“It is fair to say that it had gone through some periods of greatness but, when we purchased it, it had been neglected for quite a few years,” Paul says.

Much like the Gardens of Heligan, as Paul and Irina pulled back the leafy covers, a world of hidden treasures was revealed to them. Among these discoveries was a magnificent set of stone steps reaching from the home’s gates, through the gardens and down to where the Stirling railway station was once located.

Mature trees including firs, a coppiced copper beech, a tulip tree, magnolia and liquidamber surround the family home.
Waterlilies bring pops of colour in the raised pond.

“Every night we would spend an hour and a half excavating the next step and we found they went all the way down,” Irina says.

“We started discovering all these other things that we hoped were there, but didn’t know for sure.”

With the help of their young son and his toy digger, the couple uncovered beautiful dry-stone walls and an above-ground pond that Paul has lovingly restored and filled with water lilies.

The cleared yard sparkled with potential and Paul was ready to develop a garden based on ideas he collected through his years of research in National Trust gardens around the world.

“I don’t always have a creative, original streak for gardening,” Paul says. “I like to collect ideas and then use them.”

Evesham overlooks the arboreal beauty of the Stirling-Aldgate valley.
Paul appreciates all the garden’s small details, such as contrasting colours and textures.

The result is a beautiful, European-inspired, architectural garden. Winding stone paths meander through spruce, fir and Japanese maple trees, complemented by pops of pink from mass plantings of rhododendron and camellia. Contrasting with these bright blooms are Paul’s collections of rich shiraz-red liliums and deep purple bearded iris.

“One thing that inspires me is dark flowers,” Paul says. “You can’t get a black flower but you can get pretty close to it.”

With the Crafers area frequently shrouded in mist, water droplets sparkle on cast-iron statues scattered between plantings and the morning dew reveals the rich colours of the garden’s stone features. The colours and textures of the dry-stone walls form a landscape of their own in earthy tones.

“What I get the most pleasure from is enjoying the architectural elements of the garden and hard features like the walls,” Paul says.

Paul has restored the dry-stone walls, replacing gaps and odd rocks with original stone.

“I love the old, dry-stone walls and the beautiful stone paths, but I also love the plants, especially the way the light changes the elements you see.”

This love of detail can be attributed to Paul’s long-time passion for photography. It is evident in Paul’s photographs that nothing is missed in this sprawling garden. Each shadow, petal, dewdrop and sprout is captured by the camera’s lens.

Bursts of blue bloom within the dense foliage as morning sunlight fills the garden – this mass planting of hydrangea has been propagated from cuttings collected by Paul. In fact, many of the garden’s flourishing plants have been tenderly nurtured from seeds and saplings in Paul’s greenhouse and potting beds. An arduous, yet rewarding method of growing and planting, Paul takes pleasure in slowly watching his work come to fruition.

Colours bloom as the garden is kissed by morning light.

“For me, gardening is about patience and anticipation, so I am always looking years ahead instead of weeks or months,” he says.

“For the first year when we moved in, I made a sun map. I drew a map of the garden and I would record where the sun was at different times of the day over the seasons to try and work out where things would best fit.”

This helped Paul create the flourishing vegetable garden where the couple’s three boys – twins aged 10 and a 13-year-old – now forage for ingredients at dinnertime.

“The only thing is, we share the veggies and fruit with a lot of possums and rosellas, so we only get small quantities of things,” Paul says.

“But you just can’t beat having that fresh produce.”

Foxgloves peek out over the dense foliage.
Paul enjoys the architectural elements of plants and stonework.

Situated at the top of the garden, Paul and Irina’s home overlooks the garden and borrows the views of the valley beyond. Cockatoos, kookaburras and rosellas chirp in the trees alongside possum holes and the garden even has a resident koala. A pair of wedgetail eagles live in the Hills nearby and they visit the property to hunt. Kangaroos hop by and Rajah the peacock often makes an appearance.

Recent efforts have been dedicated to getting the garden to a standard where Paul feels happy to show it off as part of Open Gardens SA.

“About two years ago, roughly a third of the garden was still quite rundown,” Paul says.

“It had been cleared, but there had been no structure to it and there was still a bit of ivy and these wandering paths.

“We had the stonemason come in with an excavator and build some new garden beds and drystone walls. There was this pile of boulders and he carved them into amazing walls in a very short amount of time.

A path leads down a slope to a fire pit surrounded by lavenders and waving grasses.
Living in the Hills gives Paul and Irina plenty of room for planting.

“Now that is complete, I have spent a year planting in all the new beds and that has given the final bit of structure to the garden.”

When they moved into the property, Paul and Irina gave themselves a deadline of 10 years to have Evesham ready for an open garden. They may be a few of years behind schedule, but their hard work will be rewarded when they welcome their first visitors this coming spring.

Evesham will be open for Open Gardens SA
on October 22 and 23, 2022.
Visit opengardensa.com.au for details.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of SALIFE Gardens & Outdoor Living magazine.

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