The Garden and Maze
The Garden in History
The present garden at Harper’s Mansion covers two acres; all that is left of the original 100 acre purchase of James Harper in 1834. In 1850 the garden was described in an advertisement for the sale of the house. It reads:
"Fronting the house about an acre of land is handsomely laid out as a flower garden, with carriage road from the principle entrance to the dwelling house. In the rear is a large Kitchen Garden, well stocked with choice fruit trees, and a dwelling house for the Gardener. Close to the kitchen is a never-failing well of water. To the east of the dwelling is a small horse paddock, cleared and fenced, containing upwards of four acres.
The rest of the land is fenced in, and consists principally of the richest alluvial soil. The timber on the land can also be made available for various purposes."
This supports information in a survey done by P L Bemi in 1844, when James Harper mortgaged the property. Berni's survey shows a large area of garden which extended from just above the old kitchen to the northern boundary of the stables (the current site of the maze) and across to the present Old Hume Highway. This is largely the extent of the present garden.
When the National Trust excavated the site in 1984 they found the remains of a squared cottage garden in front of the house with an axial path and evidence of a fence and gatepost. The rest of the land had reverted to paddock.
The Garden Today - A Garden for All Seasons
Seeking ways to offset the cost of maintaining Harper’s Mansion, the National Trust decided to create a garden and maze that could be opened independently of the house. Accordingly in 1999 Michael Jackman, a local landscape gardener, was commissioned to lay out and plant the present garden. Since 2007 it has been managed by Volunteers and, under a cooperative agreement with the NSW Dept of Corrective Services, by staff and inmates of the Berrima Correctional Centre.
The intent is to create a garden appropriate to the 1835 house, building up a collection of pre-1850 plants and/or their modern counterparts and placing an emphasis on fruit and vegetable production. In this regard it differs from many of the Southern Highland gardens.
To achieve this end we are using information gathered by the Historic Houses Trust. On their website are lists of plants imported by early colonial gardeners such as the Macarthurs of Camden Park and the Macleays of Elizabeth Bay House, as well as those of nurserymen such as Thomas Shepherd and John Baptist. Garden Plan 2013
The maze was planted in 2000 and now is over 3 metres tall. It is made of 370 Cupressocyparis leylandii. The total length of the path is 350 metres but, if you can find the quickest way out, only 185 metres.
In 1995, before the main garden was laid out, Heather Cant, a leading name in the rose world and then a member of the Harper's Garden Committee, drew up a list of heritage roses and selected several varieties for planting in the long border running from the front gate to the house. Over the years this border became overgrown with other perennials and in 2009 a decision was made by the Garden Committee to restore this bed and to extend the plantings into the main garden to make heritage roses a major feature. Including these roses in a National Trust garden was seen as a way to secure their future. This work was completed in 2012 with the planting of 60 plus roses including some of the earliest introduced into our gardens.
Harper's management Committee acknowledges the efforts of Ray Harrison who, with the assistance of Clive West and the Harper's Garden Committee, has made the plantings possible. Thanks are also due to Ken Wilson for generously donating the metal rose supports that have been put into the main garden.
For a full list of the Heritage Roses planted at Harper's Mansion click here - Garden - Heritage Rose List 2014