Wendy Whiteley's Garden

Wendy Whiteley’s Garden

Wedged between buildings jostling for harbour views and Moreton Bay figs pushing limb-like roots into the ground is a quiet, secret place. Located at the foot of a steep pathway that runs off Lavender St in Lavender Bay, you will find a grassy clearing surrounded by lush, tropical gardens. You won’t find any hulking council-issue furniture in this place; it’s all elegant wood and metal with sculptures dotted amongst the trees.

Wendy Whiteley's Garden
Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay, North Sydney

I visit on a sunny Saturday afternoon and observe the steady parade of dog walkers, picnickers and families wandering through the clearing. An Indian bridal couple has their photos taken, people nap in the sun and others read in the shade.

The garden was built on a disused rail yard by Wendy Whiteley, wife of legendary Australian artist Brett Whiteley and mother to Arkie. Both Brett and Arkie’s ashes are said to be buried in the garden somewhere. Wendy built the garden as a way of coping with her grief after they died and also as an act of love for her local community.

This gentle deed inspired me to do something similar – much smaller but in the same spirit.

I live in a block of flats with a backyard that was (until recently) overgrown and ugly. Come Sunday morning (sunny again), Natureboy and I head off to Bunnings in his ute to stock up on seeds, sugar cane mulch, manure, seedlings, shrubs and native saplings. For two solid hours, we weed, dig holes and prepare the soil. For another two hours we plant, water, fertilise and mulch. I steal some cuttings from a footpath garden around the corner to fill the gaps and we spend the last half hour building a table and chairs out of the junk lying around in the backyard.


The result? It’s no secret garden but it’s a comfortable outdoor space for me and my neighbours to hang out and watch things grow.



Where is your favourite garden? Do you like gardening too?

5 comments on “Wendy Whiteley’s Garden

  1. Aw, nice work guys! That’s amazing. Your neighbours should shower you with gifts (preferably in the form of not having late night noisy parties) in gratitude 🙂

  2. OMG Em, that is unbelievable. What a transformation, and from so little you created so much!
    That was truly a day well spent, and I bet you just loved getting your hands dirty 🙂
    May all your hard work be returned in plenty, and may it deliver you many happy evenings under the stars.

  3. Ow I LOVE Wendy Whiteley’s Garden! It’s one of my most favourite places in Sydney! … I love your little garden too Miss Emma – it’s very inspiring! Makes me look around my flat a wonder if I can’t turn one corner into a little floral haven and invite the neighbors in to picnic …

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