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Meet: Holly Kerr Forsyth, garden writer, friend and philospher

Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth

We pop into Holly's garden, stay for tea and fall a little bit in love.

When did you start gardening?

The garden was my comfort after the loss of my son William, to cot death at the age of 6 weeks. I took on the creation of a new garden almost immediately; with obsessive determination I built a new and beautiful space, all in scented white. These days it’s a place of peace and solace and there has hardly been a day when I have not spent some time in my garden.


How did you design your garden?

I change it constantly but my staples are wisterias and magnolias because they grow so well in my sandy Sydney soil. My annual indulgence is masses of tulips, which look great with the fat rib of daphne that wends its way through the front garden. There are lots of hellebores too, with the Magnolia soulangiana. As spring heats up into summer the blue ginger (Dicorysandra) grows tall behind the Medenilla speciosa, with its hanging pink and purple racemes. In January frangipanis tower over the front garden and impart a happy, holiday atmosphere.


Do you write in the garden?

No, mostly I just sit with my (ever-present) cup of tea and daydream!


How has your appreciation of garden history influenced your garden?

I love reading about how women empowered themselves by planting a beautiful garden: how the garden was a creative outlet and a site of personal rejuvenation. And of course reading the works of designers helps us make decisions about our own gardens. I also love reading the adventures of the plant hunters, who risked life and limb to trek through Asia and who brought to 'the western world' some 30,000 species of plants.


Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth


What are you planting at the moment?

I’ve been training a new ‘step-over apple hedge’, using low-chill varieties: ‘Early Macintosh’; the early-season ‘Vista Belle’; and the cooking apple, ‘Rome Beauty’, which have all been grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock.


What do you look forward to about spring?

Spring is a perfect time to build a new vegetable garden. I like to plant what I can’t live without, and what attracts the most pesticides when grown commercially (like broccoli). With experience you find the varieties of particular vegetables that grow best in your climate. As veggie growing is not maintenance-free, it is best to choose a few key crops to grow well.


Holly has a new book out called ‘Seasons in My House and Garden’ published by Melbourne University Publishing, adding to her immensely readable collection.         


Text : Linda Ross  

About this article

Author: Linda Ross