Plant/Life: Jenny Rose-Innes

Jenny Rose-Innes is a ‘serial renovator and garden maker’. She’s been building houses and gardens for over 40 years and her latest creation in the Southern Highland town of Bowral is testament to her many years of experience and vast gardening know-how. It’s full and voluptuous and only four years old!

The property is 1500 square meters and FULL of green. Image by Abbie Melle
Abundant perennial plantings including salvia, clematis, and roses in the front garden, with pleached Manchurian pears (Pyrus ussuriensis) separating the garden from the street. Image by Abbie Melle

‘I designed the garden from scratch when we built the house.’ Jenny tells me. Her design process is simple – she starts from the inside and works her way out. ‘I design the floor plan the way I like the house to live. Always, in my mind, is what I will look out on to when I enter the house. Once the house starts taking shape then I stand in the space and imagine what I want to look at. That’s how the garden starts developing. It’s important to me that the house and garden both come together as one.’

The garden has a relaxed formality. The front yard is bordered by a row of pleached Manchurian pears (Pyrus ussuriensis), with a low pond as a central focal point. At either end of the space are two benches, with dark red prunus trees growing over each and joined at the top like a living arch. ‘They are so pretty when they’re in blossom in spring.’

The garden composition looking from the front door towards the rear of the house is spectacular – with a double bank of glass sliding doors opening up to an enclosed courtyard garden. Four cone-shaped topiaries frame a French terracotta Acanthus urn from Parterre in Sydney, and a mix of low perennial plants like lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) fill the beds. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) grows up the pillars of the house.

Whilst the garden looks incredible now, it didn’t come without challenge – the heavy clay soil in Bowral, according to Jenny, is very hard to work with.

The shock of trying to plant into the barren and unwelcoming soil was terrible, but we persevered. The garden became very beautiful.”

It became so beautiful, in fact, that one day someone walked in off the street and offered to buy the property. Jenny and her husband had previously bought the block next door and had built a house on it. ‘We were planning on selling the house next door but then decided to move into it. We now live next door!’.

Jenny Rose-Innes and her dogs Penny the schitzu and Fergus the schnauzer. ‘Dogs and plants make my world go around. I don’t need much more of anything else.’ Image by Abbie Melle
The garden has a relaxed formality. Image by Abbie Melle
The borders in the front garden are framed by box (Buxus spp.) hedges. A mix of roses and perennials create a lush, relaxed vibe and provide Jenny with plenty of flowers to use in arrangements indoors. Image by Abbie Melle

It must be hard, I suggest, to live next door to a garden you once loved so much and not have the opportunity to tend to it. ‘I thought I might miss it, but I’m so busy with my new garden’, says Jenny.

A garden is like a child – you have to give it attention, you have to watch it and see when it needs feeding and watering. It’s very demanding, actually.

‘I am really excited about the new garden – I was trying to design a less intense garden but I don’t think it’s worked out that way, if anything it might be a bit more intense.’

Jenny Rose-Innes is an irrepressible gardener. She tells me of the most important condition of sale of her old house – the greenhouse. It had to move with her. ‘My builder lifted the greenhouse over the fence and put it in the new garden. I love it. It’s a workhorse – it works all year round. I also have a proper kitchen garden, and lots of flowers again. I’ve gone mad!

Jenny assures me that her days of house and garden renovations are over, that her new garden, next-door to her old one, is her forever garden. ‘My new garden is five minutes old and you should see it, it’s amazing. I will never move again!’

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This story was photographed by Abbie Melle and produced as part of our monthly collaboration with The Design Files.

A quiet corner of Jenni’s magnificent garden. Image by Abbie Melle
The huge gingko tree (Ginkgo biloba) provides a gorgeous green backdrop to the garden, turning butter yellow in autumn. Image by Abbie Melle
Every garden needs a potting bench, complete with sink. Of course, Jenny’s is as beautiful as it is practical. Image by Abbie Melle
Garden details. Image by Abbie Melle
My love of plants came from my mother. I remember helping her planting out seedlings as a child. I have always loved looking out on a garden and having flowers in the house,’ Jenni says. Image by Abbie Melle