Place. And memories. And gardens.

This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Mickey Robertson from Glenmore House speak at an event about her life and transformation of her home and garden. Mickey has been a successful interior designer for many years but it was the purchase of this historic property near Camden that started her life and passion as a truly talented gardener.

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She started her talk off speaking about how she initially hated that the word Memory was used in the sub title of her book. I suppose because it made it look like she was ancient, or that it was all done and dusted and in the past when it was all still very much in her now. But then she went on about how much memory and place, especially the memories we have of where we grew up as children, where we come from, make up such a part of what people want in their homes and gardens.

Working as an interior designer and with many clients over a long period of time, she always had to ask people about where they came from, whether that was their suburb in a larger city, a country, the city or the country and what they loved as children to really find out what people want when designing a home or their garden.

It was so interesting and made me stop and think about those things. Think back to when I was a little girl and the kind of gardens and homes that I loved. I grew up in Eastwood and Epping in the north western suburbs of Sydney living in an old federation home that had a gorgeous garden thanks to my Mum and all the hard work she put into it. My friends homes all had lovely gardens, I remember so clearly the garden of two of my Mum’s best friends where we spent a lot of time after school or on weekends at sleepovers myself, or socialising with the whole family on weekends at lunches or dinner parties. My best friend Soph lived in a gorgeous old Federation home with a gorgeous garden filled with hydrangeas and roses. I remember all the paths in that garden, they have such an imprint on my mind. The same with another friend of my Mum Debbie, who lived in the most stunning old house in Cheltenham with a seriously wonderful garden. I loved everything about that house, the history of the old home, the newer extensions on it, her children’s artworks framed and hanging all over the place. It was filled to the brim with beautiful stuff inside and out and I just loved it so much.

Both these gardens and our own came to mind when Mickey was talking about this stuff today. It’s so true, all that stuff as a kid that I loved, I still love. I’m still drawn to it, the gardens and homes and interiors. Perhaps it was strange that as a little girl I loved those things – making my bedroom my own little slice of “my” place and space. Neat as a pin of course, but filled with all my things, placed just so, as I liked with the odd little pot plant (I think I stole an African Violet from my Nanna and Mum bought me a maiden hair fern after I begged her to get me one). Yes, perhaps a little strange.

Every September holidays Mum would rent a house in the Blue Mountains where we would go for a week or so to visit all those open gardens and marvel some truly gorgeous surroundings…my all time favourite being Reg Livermore’s in Wentworth Falls that I just adored. I would go to garden shows with my Mum, I did work experience at a nursery, had posters of Monet’s garden on my bedroom wall and I still feel my heart skip a beat when I see a gorgeous garden.

It’s true, all that stuff that I loved so much as a kid, is the stuff that still makes my heart sing. I was reminded of my melamine plate that we all had to sit down and draw our favourite things and this was mine. Neat as a pin of course!

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It might as well be our place now huh?

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I spoke to Mum about it afterwards (she came with me, how lovely it is that we could do that…my wonderful garden teacher still) and she spoke about how the new garden she is building it based on all the things that she loved as a little girl. And how her latest garden bed filled with roses and peonies and the like are all like the ones she used to play schools with…the pupils being all the blooms all lined up…and how she is still talking to these ones.

Isn’t it a lovely notion? It just so struck a chord with me. All the things we love as kids are what we truly love to do, are what fills our hearts and make our souls sing. It makes me want to remember exactly the kind of things that my girls love to do and how I hope they can build and strive towards themselves.

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You can check out Mickey’s book and even buy a copy online here. It’s a lovely, lovely story filled with her wonderful, infectious passions. And best of all she told me that my time will come in the garden. Young kids and gardens don’t mix all that well….but my time will come. And I just can’t about wait.

Do you remember gardens or flowers from your childhood?
Do you think they have stuck with you right up till now?
Have you visited Glenmore House?
Make a melamine plate in the 80’s like me? What was on yours?

Comments

  1. Pip Palmer says:

    Beth what a beautifully written article , one of your best ! One day when we catch up locally I will tell you a personal story in this theme , welll done !!! Xxx Pip ( Sarah’s mum) xx

  2. My grandmothers garden was my favourite as a child, she grew the most beautiful roses, stocks and sweat peas. I remember loving going there on a Sunday as it meant I could take flowers for my teacher on a Monday morning. I only wish I had half the garden she did.

  3. Your actual house and your plate drawing, uncanny ? Sounds like a great message actually. It’s funny how we depart from things that made us sing as youngsters (for me it was bird spotting) and when we come back to it – as a 40y.o it brings so much joy!

  4. Just into bed and I am glad the last thing I have read were these words. So lovely xx

  5. I have a friend who just recently got a pool put in on her olive farm and has been asking me about what to do with the gardens. She was thinking a formal garden with lots of flowers and she already has lavender and a few climbing roses. So of course I have jumped on Pinterest and madly flicked through Country Style and while roses are just beautiful all with a wisteria arbour I keep getting drawn to hydrangeas with loads of green and what really makes my heart sing are the gardens using natives- Lilly Pilly, kangaroo paw, grevillea, protea (not exclusively Aussie, I know) succulents and fruit trees, I LOVE fruit trees, I would love an espalier quince or lemon as a screen for our outdoor area. Surprise surprise go back to the gardens I spent heaps of time in as a kid- the old house my parents had their business in which had a plum tree and hydrangeas and my grandparents garden which was citrus trees, a natural rock bird bath and beautiful, bush looking natives. Like you, I’m really trying to get my garden happening and curse the weeds and the grass edges that never seem to stop, so pleased to hear it’s the kids that are holding the garden back!

  6. I have been studying the drawings of inventors and its uncanny the amount of them that draw their inventions as children. This is a great example of visualising through drawing as a child.

  7. Thanks for introducing me to Glenmore House Beth. Am just starting on my garden journey and am feeling inspired by your post. Wandering around historic houses and beautiful gardens is one of my favourite things to do when traveling – either in Australia or overseas.

  8. just lovely thankyou beth!
    I love gardens and gardening and have inherited green fingers from my mother and grandmother also my daughter loves gardening! … in the genes!
    i’m always drawing and painting flowers in my journals!
    I remember reg livermoore’s garden! gorgeous!
    I remember my grandmas pretty blue bells all in a row!
    she came from England when she was just16 on her own, in 1911!
    love those women! much love m:)X

  9. This is the best post you have ever done.

    Gardens are an intrinsic part of my life and history. I’ve been a serious gardener since I bought my first home when I was 22. It’s my main passion apart from books and cooking. And clothes (always clothes).

    Nothing teaches patience more than a garden. Nothing is more devastating than when a garden is destroyed.

    I am heavily influenced by the gardens of my childhood. I grow hybrid tea roses for the very reason that they were the roses of my childhood. Ditto cottage style plants, tropical plants and succulents. I have plants from my parents and late grandparents gardens. This means the world to me, because I remember them through these treasures.

    When I travel I always want to see the gardens. I actually wept when I saw Sissinghurst for the first time because I’d wanted to experience it for so long. I dream about my previous gardens often.

    My kid has a melamine plate he did at day care in 2012 that he eats off most nights and mum still has mine from the early 80s.

    I love your garden posts the best- maybe you could do a weekly series?

    Am going to purchase that book. x

  10. Popped over to read when I saw your mum say she was in tears reading this post! You and your mum make such beautiful gardens and I now know more about why. I’ve come late to the garden appreciation group because as a kid & teen gardens were HARD work & my parents did it all as I preferred to read or go to the beach!! It’s only in past few years (post retirement!) I’ve become more of a garden person. Currently renting I’m putting my love & energies into pretty pots on the back verandah. I’m hugely visual and the colour and shapes of flowers & plants draw me in every time! I’m able to draw and paint some of my favourites too which gives me great joy. My nostalgic faves are sweet peas (actually grew these in Sydney along the pool fence with my granddaughters’ help) and pansies. The bright colours and shapes amaze me! My late mum had an eye for colour now I realise because she told me to add pops of yellow in the flowers I plant near the purple ones as it brings the colours out. Since returning to art in 2013 I apply the same idea using yellow! Thank you for a most wonderful story today!

  11. This is such a great post! As kids my parents dragged us all around open gardens in the blue mountains and southern highlands in the spring and we thought it was so boring! Now, I love visiting open gardens and some of the flowers I love most are those that my grandpa grew in his gorgeous home at Burradoo. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that all the things I most enjoy as an adult are those that were from my childhood even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time! I now listen to all the classical music my parents used to listen to in the car that I was so embarrassed by as a teenager in front of my friends.

  12. Patricia Parker says:

    After reading that Susie was sitting on a train weeping, and even though I know it doesn’t take much for her to cry, I had to investigate!! I was rewarded with this lovely story about gardens and what they mean to us. How true! I remember many gardens I have enjoyed during my 75 years and they have all come to fruition in my present garden which I began 16 years ago. My home is a 170 year old convict built dwelling on the Tasman Peninsula in southern Tasmania and when we came here it was surrounded by bare paddocks with a couple of pine trees and an old willow tree. Since that time, my husband and I, have managed to create a very lovely, if not rather rambling, garden. Plants like sweet peas, which my nanna Daisy grew in abundance (with the help of the contents of her chamber pot), bulbs of all descriptions, which were everywhere in a beautiful garden at a property in Robinson in the Southern Highlands of NSW, where we stayed as kids, and flowers that I vaguely remember from my great grandmother’s garden at Silverwater in Sydney, like hollyhocks, cornflowers, roses and fox gloves, have all been planted here in our paradise. Not only does the garden give us great pleasure, but many visitors to this part of the world are able to enjoy it as well. We are very lucky to know that the garden will continue to give pleasure for future generations because a group of local community members have formed an association to enlarge the gardens and turn the property into a tourist attraction after we have moved on. Thank you Beth for passing on this story, which has prompted many lovely memories for me.

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