Even as one enters this garden, it is obvious that the garden owner has a great love of colour. The front garden, while small, is filled with plants, which embrace the entire colour wheel. There are mature white magnolias, yellow roses and brugmansia, and also lovely shades of purple, such as in the dainty, fairy-like climber, Asarina barclaiana, which rambles over arches and other features.
The garden owner, and artist, is Victoria Sipajlo, who lives in Balgowlah with her charming husband, Jiri (pronounced Jerry), in a California Bungalow home, which nestles well into the garden.
Besides fairly traditional plants such as abelia and the shrimp plant in the front garden, there are wonderfully dramatic off beat ones like the gigantic alliums, which when in flower, fly skyward with mauvey balls as giant explosive finials.
A clever trick to clothe the area beside the driveway tracks, where grass refused to grow, is the use of variegated giant ivy. Its lush glossy green and white highlights helps to lift the area out of the shade.
As the name of the garden suggests fairies are a great love of the garden owner, and they appear in various spots throughout the garden, as guardians and indicators of something special. Two special ones, a pair on large bas-relief, feature on the fence behind the glassed in pool.
In the back garden, again colour is prominent, both the wonderful range of greens from the darkest to ones of lime, and rich purples such as in the Azalea ‘Magnifica’, pinks, as in the japonica and reticulate camellias and oranges in clivia drifts.
There is also a wonderful use of leaf colour through the garden : grasses, coleus, wormwood and euphorbia, such that silvers, almost blacks and chartreuse mingle happily to create a tapestry.
There is an area to the left hand side of the garden, as one wanders toward the back where sky blue agapanthus add another pretty note, near citrus and the royal purple Plectranthus eckolonii.
Not all is bright colour. As a nod to Sissinghurst there is a white garden, the sorbet (as Vita Sackville-West described it) that cleanses the palate between the inspection of the brighter areas of the garden. The white flowers such as camellias, arums, ranunculus, and roses, might be predictable but no less beautiful!
A major feature of the garden is a large shade house, with a dramatic chevron-inspired design. It was apparently built to protect the precious and beautiful weeping maple found here. It is surrounded by fuchsia, maidenhair and begonias, all again adding colour.
Throughout the garden, but especially in the back garden, there are large mature trees, which give the garden height, while also framing it. There are magnolias, several Japanese maple and liquidambar.
However, probably the greatest charm of the garden, apart from the clever use of colour and texture in plant choice, is the artistic creations of Victoria herself. She is an artist of great accomplishment. For example, her large blue tongue lizard, a Gaudiesque Aussie wonder, sits gently and sensually near the shade house; both stylish and fun.
The timber-panelled door at the end of the garden is my favourite of Victoria’s art works. There is both drama and whimsy in its execution. On the door’s four panels the artist has elegantly painted scenes, two of a building reminiscent of the Brighton Pavilion or a Moorish palace, and two of fairies embellished with gold. The painting is done with great skill and in a very realistic fashion.
The fact that one can open the door to try to go beyond is wonderful. However, it is not necessary to leave the garden to be transported to a different place. There is enough happening within to keep the visitor occupied!
When Victoria’s parents bought the house, the garden was a blank canvas. They started the path to creating a lush and welcoming garden, full of colour and meandering paths. Victoria has embraced this legacy and the garden is more beautiful than ever.
Fairy’s Folly will open through Open Gardens Australia on the weekend of September 21-22 from 10 am to 4.30 pm. 3 PlantSt Balgowlah, NSW. $7, under 18s free.