Saturday, July 20, 2024
An aerial image of Annesley highlights the use of Buxus hedging to create a formal framework for the gardens

Cottage charm

By Lynne Testoni

A well-thought-out maintenance plan has retained the charm and authenticity of these classically planted gardens.

There is something reassuring and calming about an English-style cottage garden. Set among eight acres of magnificent English-style gardens, Annesley Bowral Retirement Village, about 120km south of Sydney, New South Wales, could be called a Southern Highlands sanctuary.

Surrounded by mature deciduous trees that put on a magnificent show of colour throughout the seasons, the grounds are beautifully maintained by the SureGreen team.

The village was built in the early 1900s as a boarding school for girls. Over the last 100 years, the space has evolved into meticulous English-style cottage gardens that require careful management.

And the work has paid off. The Annesley gardens were recognised as a gold winner in the category of Maintenance Commercial Resorts/Retirement Communities/Educational Campuses at The Landscape Association’s (TLA) annual Landscape Excellence Awards in 2023.

Turf management is a critical area of the maintenance plan, along with regular pruning of the Prunus surrounding the main entrance
Turf management is a critical area of the maintenance plan, along with regular pruning of the Prunus surrounding the main entrance

Soil preparation

The soil at Annesley is an inorganic clay, which can be challenging. SureGreen’s grounds staff combine compost with the mulch and spread it throughout the gardens during mulching operations. This compost is turned into the soil to help improve organics.

Before new plantings are installed, the existing soil is thoroughly cultivated using a rotary hoe, and fresh compost is incorporated with fresh garden soil.

Once the soil preparation is complete, all plants are installed using a water crystal and starter fertiliser such as Sure Start to help with establishment. Trees are planted using tree fertiliser tablets. Larger trees are sprayed with an anti-transpirant to help reduce moisture loss as they are generally planted in the hotter, full sun areas of the estate.

All plants and trees are well watered daily over their first month to ensure they have settled in well and remain healthy.


Planting in the village includes dozens of roses, which are treasured by the residents. There are a variety of different species, including standard Iceberg, locally grown hybrid tea varieties and a few well-looked-after David Austin roses.

Throughout flowering, dead heads are removed, regular composting and mulching with sugarcane mulch is carried out, along with constant inspections for aphids and fungal diseases. Any pests are treated immediately.

Each winter the roses are correctively pruned to remove crossing branches, removing unnecessary long stems and keeping them in their intended shape and size. Fertilising regularly with rose-specific fertiliser keeps the flowers coming.

Bulbs are also planted throughout the village. Composting, mulching, weeding and general maintenance needs to be completed without damaging or inhibiting the growth of the bulbs.

Classical plantings are a feature of the gardens at Annesley, with weeping cherries surrounded by lush underplantings of selected perennials
Classical plantings are a feature of the gardens at Annesley, with weeping cherries surrounded by lush underplantings of selected perennials

Many varieties of Prunus trees are scattered about the gardens, including flowering ornamental cherry. Weeping Cherry is utilised as a feature tree in many gardens, providing some much-needed shade in the hot summer months along with an amazing floral display.

During the year, the maintenance team keeps their intended shape with minor pruning and uplifting. In winter, staff complete corrective pruning to remove crossing branches and open them up to minimise pest and disease attack.

The other feature planting is Buxus hedging. Both Buxus japonica and Buxus sempervirens are included as a hedging plant in the gardens, and often as borders along footpaths and framing gardens. Around Annesley, square hedges are the most trimmed shape, however more intricate spheres, pyramids and columns have been showcased.

Maintenance schedule

The SureGreen team is onsite five days per week and each area of the garden is visited at least weekly in detail. Hardscape maintenance includes removal of cobwebs from the pedestrian lights and signage, cleaning of storm water drains, cleaning of barbecue facilities and weed control in the hardstand areas.

The gardens are mulched, and turf is aerated twice a year, which helps reduce the need for constant watering. However, high profile communal areas are watered using automatic irrigation systems.

Weed control

Mulching at Annesley is not only important to retain soil moisture, but also to help keep weeds down. Not including the mulch, staff remove weeds by hand in most areas as a chemical-free weed control method. This is because the residents are on site and are regularly at home. It is also a much more environmentally friendly method, which helps the bees and insects, native birds and residents’ pets and families who come and visit.

Turf weeds are managed using a preventative strategy. Turf areas are fertilised throughout the year using a slow-release fertiliser coated in a pre-emergent herbicide to help eradicate most weeds as they initially germinate.

A walk-behind boom sprayer delivers calibrated rates of selective broadleaf herbicides in March and September to ensure any germinated weeds are controlled and eradicated before they mature and set seed.

A job worth doing

Despite the extensive work involved, the team say they love maintaining the grandeur of this classically styled garden. The feedback from the residents, and winning an award at the Landscape Excellence Awards, has made it all worthwhile.

“A gardener’s absolute dream in the splendour of the NSW Southern Highlands,” they call it.

The Landscape Association’s (TLA) annual Landscape Excellence Awards celebrate the very highest standards and achievement in Landscape Construction, Design and Maintenance, both in the Residential and Commercial sectors. Recognising innovation, creativity and outstanding craftsmanship, the Awards are the highest accolades in the industry.

Entries are now open to TLA members for the 2024 Landscape Excellence Awards.  Visit the TLA website for all the details or to view more of the 2023 winners: Contact the team directly for more information.

All images supplied by The Landscape Association

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