Friday, April 23, 2010

Garden Visit: Leuralla

When Leuralla advertised that its gardens would be open on the Easter weekend, I was keen for a look. The twelve-acre garden was supposedly developed by Paul Sorenson early in the 20th century, and after enjoying Everglades a few years ago, I wanted to see what else Sorenson had achieved. After a visit to the Leura Book Fair and afternoon tea at the Wayzgoose Cafe (where they have Proper Leaf Tea!), we thought a garden visit would be a good way to spend some not-too-strenuous time outdoors. The Sprig was still croupy.

Unfortunately, Leuralla was a bit of a disappointment. While the garden had good bones, there was no sense of love and care for it, somehow: no-one taking a real interest in it. No particular care had been taken to ready the garden for visitors on the day we came, for the very good reason that it's open all the time.

The house itself is handsome, and and the gentleman who took my money assured me that the architect had been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. And who was the architect? Well, he didn't know, just that he'd been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. Poor nameless architect. I couldn't see any resemblance to Wright's work at all, but then I have only seen a few of Wright's better-known designs in photographs.

Rather oddly, Leuralla does not face the uninterrupted view of the Jamison Valley southward, but a suburban street to the east. Even more strangely, there is no view to the house from the street. There is a a high paling fence and boundary line of enormous pines, a narrow garden, and an established hedge almost against the house. Yet the eastern facade is majestically symmetrical, as if guests would first have seen it from that side. A mystery!

Fully a quarter of the garden was closed to the public for no apparent reason ("For use of staff"? How many can there be?). The "rosetrellised walkway to the picturesque "New England" style gabled and shingleroofed barn" ended at a work area. Now we all need work areas, but this one was at the end of the pergola walk and in front of the "picturesque" barn, which was being used as the gardener's shed. I know you should end a pergola with some kind of special spot, but for me, a ute and a pile of building materials isn't really a grand finale. And why advertise the barn if it's inaccessible?

Here's a pictorial example of the not-quite-rightness of this garden. I like jungly borders with restful colour combinations, but what's that waving and shouting at us above the sedums?

Yes, dahlias in fire engine red, like Laurel and Hardy turning up at a chamber recital. Just a few of them -- not enough to make a statement, but enough to disrupt the blur of greens and soft browns. What were the gardeners thinking?

That isn't to say that some of the old parts of the garden are not well-kept.

But an established hedge doesn't need imagination and love. And I'm not showing you the ornate wooden gates at the end of the drive, because somebody has decided to prevent unauthorised entry by wiring two-metre panels of reinforcing mesh to them.

Despite all this, there is still a little magic in the garden, left from long ago when loving hands set the stones in place. This picture refreshes me whenever I see it.


Jamie said...

Chookie, I've become a devoted leaf tea person in the last 12 months. One of those simple pleasures in life.

You mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright. Last Christmas Pammy bought me a beautiful book of Wright's garden designs, and it opened up a whole extra level of appreciation of what he did. It's published by Francis Lincoln, written by Derek Fell, and it's coffee table book size (probably cost Pam a packet). It's worth a browse if you ever see it anywhere, but even better, it's worth reading from one end to the other.

I haven't been to Leurella, but I found Everglades a similar disappointment several years ago.

Anonymous said...

Those Dahlias make me want to say 'look at me Kimmy'....
Sad that it was disappointing.

Chookie said...

I'm sorry that Everglades was a disappointment, Jamie! I'll look out for that FLW book, too -- found an old book about his houses at my library and will get to that soon.
Yes, Corymbia, they were just like Kath & Kim!

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