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La vie en rose

Delight in the magic of Walter and Kay Duncan’s dreamy landscape, The Heritage Garden, in Clare Valley, South Australia.

It is quite a drive from Adelaide to the Clare Valley and many often wonder, will this trip be worth it? But when you get into the heart of the Valley you get a sense of something different. A different feel. A sense of nature, of vines and gum trees and then you have the Heritage Garden.

Our garden is set in the beautiful region of Gillentown, close to Clare but yet a world away. We are on a corner with almost twenty acres to play with and this allows us wonderful access to most of our property. You can enter from Gillentown Road through a gorgeous old pedestrian gate enhanced by picket fence into a lawn walk covered in 20 arches of Souvenir de la Malmaison. This is a favorite of Walter’s and was a ‘must have’ when we were planning the garden just twenty years ago.

Walking through these arches gives a special feel immediately of an era long gone and you wonder what you will find here. To your left and right, behind the arches, start the profusion of old world rose bushes – many old favorites with once-flowering tendencies producing a profusion of bloom in the spring. Amongst them are Mme Isaac Pereire, Kathleen Harrop on a pole, Carabella, (and in summer) eight feet high Mme Alfred Carrier bushes, Trier 2000, Greensleeves, Nitida, Cramoisi Superieur, York and Lancaster with its lovely red hips in Autumn, and Sombreuil to name a few.

To the left, just inside the gate, the path is nearly hidden by a 20-year-old weeping Mulberry Tree, given by David Ruston as a wedding gift to us both. From there you might glimpse the echiums, Russian sage, asters and Mermaid sending up her arching canes to help hide the garden.

Along the southern boundary we now have a row of twelve feet high by at least ten feet wide yellow Banksia roses. These are particularly beautiful in bloom and readily hide the garden from the road.

If you keep walking, the path will open out into a large expanse of lawn with a scattering of birches and a lovely flowering prunus. Near the southern boundary, we have built a shelter for weddings which borders the lawn walk and is enhanced by a row of short growing white agapanthus, filled in with small clumps of alyssum.

The expansive lawn creates the setting for our home which was built by both of us as owner-builders in 2000. We pulled down Walter’s parents’ home on the southern edge of the city of Adelaide and trucked all the materials up here to Gillentown. We then set about recreating our home using all these materials and some new ones. We subcontracted the trades and coordinated all the jobs and by the end of 2001 we were able to move into our home together and start creating our piece of paradise.

We do hope you get to visit us and enjoy the spaces that we have created with such care. Come and stay in our cottage and fully immerse yourself in the garden. Safe travels to the Clare Valley.


This is an excerpt from Walter and Kay Duncan’s book, The Heritage Garden. A beautifully photographed coffee table book that tells the story of Walter’s love of roses and his journey to create his dream garden with Kay beside him. Available for pre-order now, please visit or email

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