Heather Cant is known locally as the Rose Lady.
Find out why in this extract from ‘Beyond the Garden Gate: private gardens of the Southern Highlands’.
Words: Jaqui Cameron Pictures: Sue Stubbs
On the first day Heather walked through the broken farm gate and down the rough farm track, she instantly formed a picture of what this garden could become.
“I wanted a garden that leads you for a walk, a garden that doesn't cut you off but rather invites you to move through it, one that is in harmony with
the home,” she explains.
The entrance to the garden certainly entices visitors to explore. Beyond the open wooden gate, the gravel drive is edged on one side with a dense mass
of silvery, green and blue plants. On the other side, behind a bottle-green buxus hedge, a line of rounded topiary draws you toward the house where
the weatherboard veranda is framed by an extraordinary display of perfectly sculpted topiary balls shaped from a variety of plants, each a slightly
different shape and subtly different shade of green.
A rose-covered trellis over the courtyard door provides a hint as to why Heather is often referred to locally as ‘the rose lady’. “I have accepted
that I am known as the rose lady,” she laughs, “because I do have a huge variety of roses throughout the garden. But I think a garden with only roses
would be a sad place. Plants need to complement each other and a garden should have colour in every season.”
After her career as a florist in London, it is not surprising to learn Heather adores colour, and she has skilfully coordinated the plants in her garden
so they gently drift across the palette.
Colourful garden beds encircle a perfectly maintained croquet lawn. “I leave the hoops permanently set up on the lawn because I think it is important to
define the space as more than just a lawn,” she says.
Wide stone steps break through the garden beds and lead down to another open area, where soft colours are replaced with vibrant orange and scarlet offset
“I call this the brass band area of the garden,” says Heather. “ I love these colours and they play a wonderful role in the overall composition, but you
have to be careful where you place them so they don’t overwhelm or clash.”
Piles of roses
Almost everywhere you turn in the garden you’ll find Heather’s roses. She has become a collector of heritage roses and she designed her garden to showcase
their beauty. “A heritage rose has grace and elegance. They aren’t formal and stiff like many of the more modern roses varieties,” says Heather.
“This is a tea rose rescued from Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney, so I don’t know her name,” she says, referring to a soft-pink beauty cascading from a high
arbour. “Like many tea roses she needs height because she has a weak neck - to truly appreciate her beauty you need to be able to look up into her
While roses are incorporated throughout the garden, Heather has also showcased their beauty in a dedicated space with a series of arbours built to form
a circle: this is her colour wheel. The arbours and the gardens between them, are filled with roses and companion plants that ease through the colour
spectrum: from crimson to scarlet, orange and yellow, then on to apricot, white, soft pink and strong pink, before returning to crimson.
In setting out to create this garden, Heather was determined it was going to be her own design, and she and her husband Richard have constructed and planted
it all themselves. “I see the beauty in the garden every single day. It gives as much to me as I give to it.”
From Beyond the Garden Gate: Private gardens of the Southern Highlands, published by Thames and Hudson, $80.