Sydney’s Secret Garden Is A Whiteley Masterpiece

A story of grief, romance, and love breathed into a small garden, tucked away from the city eyes of Sydney.

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” -Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Like something out of a fairy tale or novel, hidden just out of sight of the hustle and bustle of the city lies Sydney’s Secret Garden.

The mystery and intrigue of the garden extends beyond its physical beauty. The garden, known as Wendy’s Secret Garden has a story that many can relate, one of loss, grief, and love.

The garden, perched on Lavender Bay is a small oasis in the midst of office towers and highways boasting amazing views of Sydney Harbour.

Previously the area where the garden now grows was a decrepit railway littered with debris and rubbish.

Wendy Whitely shared the residence with her famous artist husband, Brett Whitely. Whitely adored the harbour, and many of his most famous works were inspired by the landscape surrounding Lavender Bay and Sydney Harbour.

Brett Whitely died in 1992 leaving his wife, Wendy and their house alone. Wendy was struck down by the grief of losing her husband. She felt a great need to take back some control of her life and so funneled her grief into cleaning up the mess below her house. She obsessively cleared lantana and blackberry vines, rusty refrigerators and rotting mattresses working herself till she was too exhausted to think or feel.

She worked tirelessly without permission from the local council day in and day out. After clearing the site, Wendy began created her masterpiece, modelling the garden like a giant painting as she explains on the garden's official webpage:

I didn’t know anything about horticulture when I started the garden. I just knew what I liked. I’ve since learnt what likes being here. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the plants, myself and my gardeners. - Wendy Whiteley 

The garden is a symbol, representing both loss and love. The result of Wendy’s work and commitment is one of the most beautiful and secretive gardens in Sydney filled with nooks and crannies, natives and exotics, herbs and sheltering trees for Sydneysiders to enjoy.

And there are more hidden gems sprinkled all over Sydney:

-Lisgar Garden in Hornsby

- Swain Garden in Ku-Ring-Gai

- Fagan Park, Hornsby

Image: Fagan Park, Hornsby, Wikimedia Commons

- Japanese Garden, Auburn Botanic Gardens, Auburn

- Ballast Point Park, Birch Grove

- Oatley Park and Castle, Hurstville

Image: Mount Tomah, Blue Mountains, Wikimedia Commons

- Mount Tomah, Blue Mountains

This spring grab your picnic basket and wander around Sydney’s most beautiful and occasionally secret gardens.

Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay