Remarkable Gardens updated: Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden

photo Stuart Read

The latest addition to the Remarkable Gardens list is Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, featured at AGHS’s 41st conference.

This garden in Lavender Bay, North Sydney began in 1992 when artist Wendy Whiteley found solace after her artist husband Brett Whiteley’s death by starting to clean up neglected, government-owned sloping land between her home and the obsolete railway line along the shoreline below. That effort intensified after her daughter’s death. The result is a verdant subtropical ‘jungle’  under towering Moreton Bay and Port Jackson fig trees, with quiet garden rooms, nooks to sit, stone steps, rustic handrails and secluded pathways. This ‘guerilla’ garden is now a major tourist attraction. In 2015, then NSW Premier Mike Baird granted it a 30-year lease with a 30-year option to North Sydney Council. In 2018, it gained NSW State Heritage protection for its contribution to the overall heritage significance of Brett Whiteley’s home, studio and work, as this landscape outlook is so often depicted in his painting. In 2018, it was included on the National Trust of Australia (NSW) Register. A trust to secure its ongoing future care is being established.

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