The whale is a familiar sight in Leura each spring: the cypress hedge seems to come alive when owner Bryan Hardy adds the eyes and teeth.
But the hedge, albeit enormous, is only a tiny part of a beautiful garden. Started from scratch by Mr Hardy in 1972, when he bought the bare block, it is now a wonderland of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, mature wisterias, weeping elms and maples, a seriously lush lawn, winding paths, a wishing well, a magnificent white magnolia and a water feature beside one of the garden beds – an idea he admits he stole from Kew Gardens in London.
Glenhaven, on the corner of Craigend St and Hartley Esplanade, is not an official part of the Leura Gardens Festival – Mr Hardy said it’s too small and simply can’t handle the crowds that come during the first week of October – but it’s open now and well worth a visit.
Mr Hardy has welcomed the public to his garden since autumn 1978, donating profits to the Royal Blind Society. Later that year he opened in spring for the Gardens Festival, and did so for many years.
“Glenhaven, or ‘the whale garden’ as many know it, has been open every spring for 38 years, making it the longest private continuous spring open garden in Leura,” Mr Hardy said. “Many gardens are older but Glenhaven is still owned by the original owner and slave and has been open every year.”
Now he donates all profits from the $3 entry to Guide Dogs NSW but Mr Hardy feels this may be one of the last years he opens the gates.
“I’m now 73, nearly 74,” he said. “It’s just a matter of can I keep it up?”
He means the endless fertilising, pruning, shaping, weeding and tending that go hand-in-hand with opening a garden to the public. Everything has to be just right for Mr Hardy: “I would never open a second-rate garden,” he said.
Glenhaven is opened for more than six weeks each year – it takes that long for the garden to complete its flowering cycle.
“The early flowerers are coming now and the cycle will continue until the late rhododendrons finish blooming,” Mr Hardy said.
The garden is open 10am-4pm daily until October 25. On Saturday, October 1, Andy, the guide dog ambassador, will visit the garden and would like to meet as many visitors as possible.