Plant/Life: Lindsey Baudinet’s Birchgrove Garden
Lindsey Baudinet has been gardening for much of her life. She is a no-fuss gardener, into plants for their form, colour, and texture, rather than their horticultural notoriety. I like this about her, and it reminds me of a conversation I once had with English garden designer John Brooks. Brooks is of the most influential garden designers of the last 50 years or so, and has a wonderful garden in Sussex, England.
I was surprised when John told me he was not particularly fussed by the horticultural side of plants. What he was most concerned about, he said, was their aesthetic qualities – how they look, feel, and move in combination with other plants in a garden. I have a feeling most creative people tend to approach gardening in the same way: the garden as a composition rather than a collection.
Lindsey’s garden is a wonderful example of this. She claims to have little serious horticultural knowledge, yet has created a magical garden in Birchgrove, on the shores of Sydney Harbour, overflowing with a wide collection of plants from succulents to bromeliads, begonias and orchids. It is a no-nonsense garden, and Lindsey is an intuitive gardener. She says,
“The plants work out where they are happiest. Things die, you try something else. If you get the plant in the right place then it thrives. That is what a successful garden is. Not something that you have to cosset and look after.”
She and her husband Bruce have owned this property for over thirty years. Seven years ago, when their children left home, Lindsey got stuck into transforming the back garden (with phenomenal city views!) from a damp, half dead lawn, to a lush and vigorous garden overflowing with tough, sculptural plants.
She enlisted the help of Peter Miles from Terre Verte to build the sandstone walls and help with the planting design of the central garden. They worked together to select plants that would both survive the extreme location (full sun in summer and full shade in winter) and balance each other aesthetically.
“I really like sculptural plants. I studied fine arts at university, I’ve been a weaver and a potter, and I’ve always dabbled in the creative realms. It’s the design element and the combination of plants that I love most about gardening.”
The design is simple; sandstone steppers in gravel and groundcovers leading out from the house, through a lush garden, and down to a small lawn, a raised vegetable patch, and sandstone steps down to the water. The plants (aside from the view) are the real stars of the show, especially Lindsey’s brilliant succulent and cactus collection!
As this garden illustrates, gardening is not just about knowing botanical names and horticultural information. It’s a creative process. It involves experimentation, successes, failures and fun. And it’s addictive. “I’m in the garden every day. It is wonderful to get home at the end of the day and come down to the garden. It’s a lovely rhythm in life.” Lindsey says.