Saturday, 21 July 2012

What I do (... a gardener's life for me)

My name is Silas Clifford-Smith and I have been working as a horticulturist in the Sydney region for over 22 years. During the 1990s I was the Senior Horticulturist at Admiralty House (the Sydney residence of the Governor-General of Australia). Subsequently, I was employed as Head Gardener for the National Trust in New South Wales.

The grounds of Admiralty House
next to beautiful Sydney Harbour
While working for the National Trust I looked after several of their gardens including Springwood (the Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum) and Experiment Farm Cottage. While with the National Trust I also acted as an adviser on many of their other regional gardens, including Everglades. As well as many private commissions I have also worked for the Historic Houses Trust at Vaucluse House, Rouse Hill and Elizabeth Farm.

Silas working on the restoration of the
Lewers Bequest garden in western Sydney
In recent years I have been working mainly in private practice around Sydney. Projects include one-off major restorations as well as regular maintenance of new and established gardens. I also work as a landscape consultant advising garden owners on planting plans, maintenance programmes and advice on heritage matters. As well as this, I also prepare land title searches for council development applications. My qualifications include an Associate Diploma in Horticulture from Ryde College of TAFE as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Sydney.

Silas was co-author of Interwar Gardens 
published by the National Trust in 2003
I occasionally lecture on garden and heritage related matters and have written widely for a broad range of publications. I wrote Percy Lindsay: artist and bohemian (2011), and co-authored Interwar Gardens (2003) and contributed a series of entries to the Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (2002).

Regular maintenance is essential
if you want a pretty garden
I don't advertise and rely solely on word-of-mouth from current and past clients. If you would like to make contact please e-mail me at the following address (please note I have altered the format to prevent spamming of this site).  silas[dot]cliffordsmith[at]gmail[dot]com

Friday, 13 July 2012

Glamour and Grit

On Saturday 21st July 2012 there will be a study day in Sydney on the history of the plant nursery trade  during the first half of the last century.

The Australian Garden Lover was one of many
magazine titles  that sprung up during the interwar years

The event, formally titled as Glamour and Grit - New Stories for Garden History, will be held at The Mint, 10 Macquarie Street, Sydney and will run from 10am- 4pm. Speakers include Silas Clifford-Smith (on Sydney's lost nurseries), Megan Martin (on WW2: The Commonwealth Vegetable Seeds Committee, and Anderson & Co), Chris and Charlotte Webb (Berrima Bridge Nurseries), Colleen Morris (on Paul Sorensen before WW2), Stuart Read (on Max Shelley and Jocelyn Brown) and Michael Lech (on Wunderlich's garden ornaments). This event is organised by the Historic Houses Trust in collaboration with the Australian Garden History Society and coincides with The Garden of Ideas, a national travelling exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
Several of the speakers at the study day
contributed to the National Trust's 2003
guide on the history of New South Wales
gardening styles between the wars

More information and bookings can be found at the Historic Houses Trust website:

Monday, 9 July 2012

Mad dogs and Englishmen ...

Trying to enjoy a visit to a large tropical garden in the middle of the day can be quite exhausting especially when it's very hot and humid. Recently walking on my own through the large Perdana Botanical Garden in Kuala Lumpur the lyrics of Noel Coward's comic 1930s song 'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun' soon came to mind. With sweat pouring down my head I could see hardly any one in the gardens apart from a few park workers resting under shady tropical trees.

Perdana Botanical Garden is dominated by a large ornamental lake
Located just north of the equator, Kuala Lumpur - or KL as its more popularly known - is the capital of Malaysia. While there are few outstanding ornamental gardens in the city the large Perdana Botanical Garden is well worth a visit, even in the heat of the day.

Plan of the gardens 

Dating from the 1880s this park-like garden was originally known in colonial times as the Perdana Lake Garden but  has since been elevated to the status of Botanical Garden. Perdana is now over 100 hectares in size and is dominated by a large ornamental lake. Dotted through the gardens are a number of themed sub-gardens which are well worth seeking out. These include collections of heliconias, hibiscus, plumeria and even herbs. Children would also like seeing the deer park.

Dynamic colour contrasts are a feature of the Panggung Aniversary garden
While lesser-known, internationally, than the nearby Singapore Botanical Gardens, Perdana Botanical Garden seems to strike the balance between ornamental park servicing a city in urgent need of green space and the role of scientific botanical institution in an area desperately under threat from habitat loss.While some parts of the gardens were not to my taste, overall the look of the garden is visually appealing and you can easily spend a couple of hours mooching about.

The orchid garden 
As well as the themed gardens within Perdana, close by is a small orchid garden that is also well worth a visit. Most of the plants are labeled and there is also a shop that sells orchids.

Dendrobium 'Rafidah Aziz' is named after a prominent local female politician 
Although located in the middle of KL I would recommend getting to the Botanical Garden by bus or taxi as the road system is not conducive for pedestrians.

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