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 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.
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.
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.
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.