Meet Anna van der Gardner
Meet Anna van der Gardner, Resident (and gardener), Bronte House
The gardens at Bronte House have been an inspiration to Sydney gardners for decades.
Interview and images: Robin Powell
Meet Anna van der Gardner
Did you know Bronte House before you moved in?
Soon after getting married we bought a heritage house in Queens Park, not far away. Bronte House was an inspiration to us in renovating that - both the house and the garden, though on a much smaller scale! When my husband Wes showed me the local paper with Waverley Council calling for expressions of interest to take on the lease of Bronte House and suggested we apply, I thought he was kidding.It was a big process to go through, but we’ve now been here just over four years.
How does it feel to be here?
It’s surreal in a way. There’s not a day that you don’t walk through the gates and go ‘This is amazing!’ We’re very lucky to have this opportunity. It’s so beautiful. We both love the history of it, and we’re just soaking that up.
The Hillside Garden
This has been an influential garden for decades now. Were you a serious gardener before you took it on?
Before I was an interior designer I was a florist, and I’d always gardened with my mum, who has a garden in Marlborough, New Zealand. But this has been a horticultural crash course and I justadore every aspect of it.
Are you in the garden most days?
I’m an interior designer and work from home - the garden tries to draw me outside every day. On the weekends we’re in the garden. We’re both very hands-on. We probably spend about 10 hours a week, and thankfully there is professional help from Pepo Botanic Design, who are also passionate about the garden. When we arrived it was very overgrown and needed some love. It’s improved so much!
Anna gets by with a little professional help from Pepo Botanic Design
Is there an area of the garden that keeps drawing you in?
I think the hillside garden on the Eastern lawn. When we moved in here it was not looking great, and now it’s a feature of the back lawn. There are structural elements to ground it, and then I add different flowers at different times of the year for colour or wispiness. It’s like a canvas, I'm continually changing it.
Do you enjoy the Open Days when the general public gets to share the garden?
I do! We have up to eight open days a year. A lot of hard work goes into opening the garden but we do love chatting to people. It wouldn't feel right, if we were here and it was just us, it would feel very selfish. It feels good to share it with people.
Bronte House is open October 25 and 25, 10am-2pm, $2 entry, 470 Bronte Road, Bronte