A bungalow-style garden

A bungalow-style garden

Are you interested in how heritage gardens are managed, or simply enjoy the ambience of Canberra’s well-tended open spaces?

Michael Mulvaney, Senior Environment Planner at ACT Parks, and Neil Walsh, Team Leader, Horticultural Services for ACT Historic Places, have recently teamed up to look at some of the distinctive features and plantings of the inter-War period, Bungalow-style garden at Calthorpes’ House and its important relationship with the Red Hill Reserve backdrop. Our experts look at how the garden has evolved into the museum-era period since the mid-1980s, and outline a few examples for how approaches to heritage management are recognised and resolved. From the plant species and their sources that make up the formal gardens at the front, to the functional and domestic spaces at the back of the property, Calthorpes’ House is an excellent example of how Walter Burley-Griffin’s plan for this middle-class suburb evolved.

Image: Hand-tinted photograph dated 11 November 1939
Image credit: Calthorpes’ House collection.

Image: Panorama view taken March 2020
Image credit: John Ambler


For example, when we juxtapose the hand-tinted photograph dated 11 November 1939, with the same view taken in March 2020, a few things are revealed. For example, as early as twelve years after the house was first occupied, the ‘City Beautiful’ design technique of low hedges along street frontages was not maintained at that time. The cost of maintaining hedges was born by the City, but this soon became unfeasible and so gradually families like the Calthorpes’ established an alternative garden structure without the burden of maintaining a hedge. Walking along Mugga Way past neighbouring properties today reveals a combination of towering Cypress, fences and open garden arrangements. Standing next to one of these 2-metre-high hedges today, it is easy to image the toil of keeping them in shape with hand clippers and wooden ladder.

In addition, looking closely at the view taken in early 2020, you’ll discover that our heritage management during the museum-era means that we have a hedge! It’s maintained at a height of approximately 1.5 metres but it’s not a Cypress, rather it is Privet (Ligustrum). In this way, although during the early stage of the Calthorpe family ownership of the property, the hedge border was not maintained, the current management retains the feature in line with the earliest city planning concept.

Keen to know more from our experts Neil and Michael? Click here for our extended commentary.

Want to go a virtual tour of this stunning garden? Be our guest, and visit; Google Cultural Institute Calthorpes’ House

To hear about how Dawn Waterhouse (née Calthorpe) and her friends and family enjoyed the garden, visit our web page and play the short video of Dawn talking about her childhood; http://www.historicplaces.com.au/calthorpes-house

Also, if you see an Ant-blue butterfly anywhere in Canberra’s wonderful parklands, why not mark it on the Canberra Nature Map; https://canberra.naturemapr.org/Community/Sighting/3390911

Want to take a deeper dive into the history and management of this significant property and its garden? See our Conservation Management Plan that can be accessed here.

Calthorpes’ House is typically open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, 1-4pm (Check the website to confirm if we are open; http://www.historicplaces.com.au/calthorpes-house), so why not drop by and take a stroll through the garden ‘rooms’, notice how it is a haven for native wildlife, and that nearby Red Hill is still a stunning bushland!

Feature image:
Image L-R: Michael Mulvaney and Neil Walsh
Image credit: Kate Gardiner