Nuns and the Original Garden

A photo that showed so much. I haven't seen this front porch up close before - it is now a sunroom. Also note the hedge to the left and bountiful bed of annuals.

A photo that showed so much. I haven’t seen this front porch up close before – it is now a sunroom. Also note the hedge to the left and bountiful bed of annuals.

The other week I spent some time at the wonderful Kandos Museum which is a treasure trove of Kandos social history, looking up old photos of the garden. The purpose was two-fold: both for personal interest given I’m restoring and creating the garden, as well as thinking that attendees for the Kandos Garden Fair would be interested in seeing the original photos when the Convent gardens are open for viewing in November.

The garden provided a backdrop for many school photos. The Convent had many locals captured on film a the front steps. Here we can see the formal garden bed which is well established.

The garden provided a backdrop for many school photos. The Convent had many locals captured on film a the front steps. Here we can see the formal garden bed which is well established. Also note the conifers framing the photo.

The visit paid off. The Museum has plenty of information and photos on the Convent over the years, however it was a little bittersweet as I realised how much of the beautiful gardens has been lost over the years.

The Good Samaritan nuns lived at the Convent from 1930 into the ’70s when the school closed. That was the hey-day for the gardens with obviously keen gardeners ably supported by locals and recruited school boys.

driveway

An early photo of a long-gone driveway and the beginnings of a hedge that was and no longer is.

The garden was considered an important part of the Convent with an original garden layout planned. Whilst the garden changed over the years whilst the nuns were in residence, it always featured formal hedges, many roses and abundant flower beds. I understand the nuns also grew their own veg which would have been in keeping with their humble and frugal practices.

I was surprised to see that there had been a substantial trimmed hedge down the left side of the house where I knew at one time there had been driveway access. Locals had told me before that the now rampant sky-high privet on the other side fence had also once been a neat and trim hedge.

I also found that there had been other formal garden beds within the front lawn and that a path had once run across the front of the house, with prolific flower beds.The formal circular garden bed at the front of the Convent had always been a showpiece – until the ’70s when the ‘bush rock’ garden was installed which has significantly damaged the concrete. At once stage the paths were all beautifully edged and roses sprawled along trellises.

Nuns at the front circular bed in the early '70s. Note the capping around the paths which has now gone. I suspect all this concrete has gone and my paths are new given these cracks now don't show.

Nuns at the front circular bed. Note the path capping which has now gone. I suspect all this concrete has been replaced given these cracks now don’t show. Also note the rose trellises in the background.

The photos fell off after the nuns departed in the ’70s and the building was used as a Presbytery for the resident Priest. With a single person living there, the gardens appear to have been adapted to low maintenance.

Whilst I don’t intend to reproduce the garden, it does give me some good ideas and inspiration. I’m endeavouring to restore the privet hedge along the right side, I’m certainly replanting the central circular garden bed as a feature, the front urns remain and are in use  at the front steps and the Grotto will probably look better than ever. The roses which were once such a feature are going back  in at an alarming rate.

Most likely taken in the '80s with the 'modernised' bush rock central bed.

Most likely taken in the ’80s with the ‘modernised’ bush rock central bed.

Gardens are always works in progress and this one is no exception. Just that there’s a lot of work which will take many years to come to fruition. The Convent is a patient building which I’m sure plans to be around for many more years to come and seems to be happily overseeing the efforts to date.

Another new aspect of the Convent for me. I can't imagine plantings down the right side looking a the Convent today. I also think this shows part of the now dismantled old septic structure.

Another new aspect of the Convent for me. I can’t imagine plantings down the right side looking a the Convent today. I also think this shows part of the now dismantled old septic structure.
Note the dramatic backdrop of the Coomber Mellon ranges.

This photo did trigger some regret at what it was and could have been - seeing the old structured path and what appears to be garden paths running across the front of the building which are no longer there.

This photo did trigger some regret at what it was and could have been – seeing the old structured path and what appears to be garden paths running across the front of the building which are no longer there.

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