For the last two years Dave Gray has been head gardener at Everglades, a National Trust property in Leura, designed and built through the 1930s by Paul Sorensen.
Interview: Robin Powell
Meet Dave Gray
Does Paul Sorensen deserve to be better known?
I do think he’s slightly undervalued as a gardener. Everglades is probably his most famous garden, and though there were others, now destroyed or dismantled,
that he was also proud of, this one is a great testament to his garden skills and design.
What impresses you about it?
I love the whole concept of the views of the mountains contrasting with the curving and straight lines of the garden. The massive vista down into the Jamison
Valley and across to Mount Solitary is only revealed as you wander through the garden. Instead of making it all about the view, there are different
layers and levels in the garden, and different viewpoints. Stairs at either end of the terraces afford you exterior views over the mountains or interior
views into the garden. And I love the little courtyard off the house, it makes a wonderful transition point between the garden and the house and is
a beautiful place to sit.
Sorensen is renowned for the diversity of his tree planting. Do you have favourite trees in the garden?
Oh definitely and having grown up in England, I love the fact that I get to be reacquainted with cold climate trees, like the tulip tree and the parrotias
(Persian ironwood). The silver birch in the courtyard is probably my favourite: we were always climbing silver birches when I was a kid so it evokes
lovely memories for me.
Which is your favourite season in the garden?
Probaby autumn, but spring is beautiful, and I enjoy the garden in winter. Up here there are definite seasons, and if I miss anything about working in
Europe, it’s that. In fact I thought it would be colder - we had just two frosts last year where a thin veneer froze on the surface of the pool. I
remember when I was an apprentice breaking up the lakes in London parks with a crowbar to stop people going on them. We haven’t had to do that up here!
What happens in the garden in spring?
The majority of people come to see the rhodos and azaleas, but there is so much else to see - the tulips and other bulbs, the weeping cherries on the cherry
terrace, the ‘Shirotae’ cherry over the reflecting pool, the crabapples, then the wisteria and the dogwoods, and later on the Hoheria, the
New Zealand lacebark, is covered with white fragrant flowers at the back of the gallery.There’s lots to see here, at any time of year.
Everglades is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, at 37 Everglades Avenue, Leura.