In the Beautiful Blue Mountains

Festival 2023

Friday 29 Sept - Monday 2 Oct

Cherrydell is an exceptional example of a mature intact Sorensen garden. Virtually all of Sorensen’s original tree plantings (now 75 years old) still exist, most in excellent condition. In addition all of Sorensen’s trademark ironstone walls remain, in pristine condition. These have been supplemented by replica ironstone walls constructed in the past 20 years which are virtually indistinguishable from the originals.

In many ways Cherrydell represents the embodiment of Sorensen’s landscape philosophy and vision. He saw trees as the main structural element of a garden layout and was renowned for designing for the long term, the “final landscape” which would evolve when the trees reached maturity. He also favoured mass under-planting to create waves of colour.* 

His vision is fulfilled in Cherrydell, where over 500,000 bulbs (all planted or grown in the past 20 years) create a truly stunning display in spring, enhanced by the strong structural nature of the garden’s mature trees and ironstone walls.

Cherrydell is not a display like you might find at Floriade. It is first and foremost an intimate garden which reveals itself across the seasons and invites the visitor to wander along its many paths and through its woodlands and meadows, and rest along the way. It is testimony to the functionality and beauty of Sorensen’s design.


Cherrydell is 1.25 acres in size, and can be divided into three parts: the “Upper garden” (1/4 acre) which includes the house and which is set behind a photinia hedge bordering Holmes Street, the “Lower garden” (3/4 acre) which is bordered by Everglades Avenue, and the “North garden” (1/4 acre) which is bordered by Craigend Street and Everglades Avenue. The Lower and North gardens are set behind an ironstone wall which runs for some 130 metres along the boundary. The garden slopes downwards from west to east on a medium to gentle gradient and is extensively terraced, particularly in the Lower garden area.

The Lower garden

The main gate, which is marked by a mature upright English oak and sasanqua camellias, is in Everglades Avenue and accesses the Lower garden. On entering the main gate, a curved path set with large stepping stones of mudstone (a Sorensen trademark) leads to the heart of the garden. On the right is the Cherry Terrace, and on the left is lawn and terracing containing flowering cherries and spring bulbs. On the immediate left are mudstone steps leading to the lowest section of the garden below the Fountain Terrace.

At the end of the path there is a choice, with sandstone steps to the left leading to the Fountain Terrace, mudstone steps straight ahead leading to The Cathedral and a path to the right through an azalea hedge leading to the Cherry Terrace.

The Fountain Terrace is the centre-piece of the garden. It is a semi-formal area at the centre of which is a tiered bronze fountain and pool with a sandstone surround. Around the fountain are four formal beds of David Austin roses set in neatly clipped box hedges surrounded by lawn. The formality of the rose beds is offset in part by swathes of English daisies and star flowers growing wild in the lawn. Bordering the terrace on the eastern and southern sides is a curving row of weeping pink cherries. The cherries are planted almost as an informal hedge and layer into each other. Under the cherries, and flowering at the same time, is a bed of tulips and star flowers (ipheion uniflorum) creating a stunning vista in early spring.  Surrounding the Fountain Terrace, below the weeping cherries, is an impressive ironstone wall, in places over 2 metres high, which features steps leading to romantic cellar door and underground wine cellar and a second small fountain which bubbles out of the wall into a small fern covered pool below.

To the north the Fountain Terrace is bordered by a foliage garden, containing dwarf and weeping conifers, weeping maples and box hedge clipped into various shapes. To the north-west is The Cathedral and surrounding woodland, set on a terrace above a substantial sandstone wall built by Sorensen, an unusual feature as Sorensen generally favoured the use of ironstone in his walls. Immediately to the west and up some steps is a long pergola adorned with wisteria providing spectacular blooms and perfume in spring.

The Fountain Terrace is effectively the fulcrum of the garden and presents the visitor with views of much of the garden, inviting exploration in all directions. The visitor is also invited to rest with several wooden benches and a stone seat.

The Cathedral is so named for the canopy created by mature cherries on either side, creating the effect of a high ceiling in spring and summer. A path of sandstone stepping stones winds through a groundcover of sweet woodruff, interspersed with crocus. The path is bordered by a long curving box hedge to the south, and ironstone walls to the north, and adjoining the path is an informal garden featuring hellebores, tulips and bluebells, producing a very natural effect. To the south-west of the box hedge is a woodland under a majestic mature linden tree and a magnolia. The woodland features several groundcovers including white flowering pachysandra and sweet woodruff (gallium odoratum), mauve flowering woodland anemones (anemone nemorosa) and bulbs including snow drops (galanthus), daffodils, bluebells, crocus and the rare “glory in the snow” (chionodoxa forbesii). Also featured are some elegant small statues.

At the end of The Cathedral, marked by an enormous copper beech, some mudstone steps lead to a narrow path heading northwards up a slope into The Forest. The ironstone wall near these steps is noteworthy, beautifully symmetrical despite the roots of the mature copper beech, a testimony to Sorensen’s craftsmanship.

The Forest is characterised by its mature trees, notably a liquidambar, copper beech and silver birch and a beautiful grove of mature tree ferns and other ferns including Cyathea australisdicksonia antarctica, king fern (Todea barbera), birds nest fern (asplenium nidus) and the New Zealand silver fern (Cyathea dealbata). It also features mature camellias and rhododendron, many the height of small trees. Underneath is a woodland of bluebells, giving way to other groundcovers like cyclamen, comfrey, plectranthus, and mondo grasses. With its soft winding pathways and shade, The Forest is an intimate and cool oasis particularly on warmer days.

The Cherry Terrace is situated below The Forest and features cherry trees planted by Sorensen and more recently planted mature weeping pink cherries. Kurume azaleas, daffodils, bluebells and tulips compliment the cherries. Whilst the colours in spring are spectacular, they are matched by the yellows and oranges in autumn and the sculptural beauty of the weeping cherries in particular in winter.

In contrast to The Forest the western part of the Lower garden is more open allowing the visitor long vistas of the garden. At the highest point (western end) is Kat’s Walk so named in honour of the garden’s first bride.  It is marked by a giant red oak, a line of weeping pink cherries and beds of tulips and star flowers. At the end of Kat’s Walk is a grassed area surrounding an attractive bird bath fountain.  The beautifully crafted Sorensen ironstone walls here are among the best examples of his work.

Beneath Kat’s Walk, on a lower terrace, is the Bluebell Terrace, a vast natural meadow of bluebells with a winding path opening onto a lawn near the wisteria pergola. Other bulbs in the meadow include daffodils, ixia, sparaxis and Dutch iris. The terrace is framed by three imposing mature trees planted by Sorensen, the red oak on Kat’s Walk, a Bhutan’s pine and a Himalayan spruce. With its majestic size and weeping habit, the Himalayan spruce is particularly beautiful.

Below the Bluebell Terrace and adjoining the Fountain Terrace is the Magpie Lawn named for the artwork in the middle of the lawn, a “flock” of magpies. The magpies are most striking in snow. Other features of the lawn are a graceful weeping Katsura tree, a sculptural Queensland bottle tree, a grove of mature rhododendrons and a circular bed of red tulips.

At the eastern end of the lawn, at the lowest point of the garden, is another mature red oak standing statuesque above a meadow of bluebells. Flanking the oak are a Norway spruce, Atlantic cedar, and several mature eucalypts, retained by Sorensen when the garden was originally developed. Beneath the eucalypts is a grove of waratahs (Telopea ‘Shady Lady’), banksias and grass trees (Xanthorrea glauca).

Heading north, below the Fountain Terrace, is a rare Chinese fringe tree, it’s mass of delicate white snow like flowers being one the highlights of the garden in spring. Adjoining this is another smaller meadow featuring star flowers, grape hyacinth (muscari), daffodils and jonquils. In the middle stands a dawn redwood, whilst a hedge of camellia sasanqua ‘Plantation pink’ provides a screen from Everglades Avenue below. Nearer the main gate a weeping white dogwood and grove of lilacs provide further variations of colour, and perfume in spring.

The North garden

The North garden is accessed via either The Forest or the Cherry Terrace, or from a second gate in Everglades Avenue. From the Cherry Terrace there is a long vista over lawn to the Pan fountain at the northern end of the garden.

Entering the North garden from the Lower garden the lawn is flanked by a curving box hedge to the west and by a long bed of tulips to the east. The tulip bed is one of three formal tulip beds in the North garden, in contrast to the Lower garden where tulips are used in combination with weeping cherries and other bulbs. Behind the box hedge is a somewhat wild garden featuring a golden ash, tupelo, weeping maples, a spectacular ‘Donation’ camellia, rhododendrons , bulbs (daffodils, jonquils, bluebells and iris) and a rustic birdbath.

To the left of the Everglades Avenue gate the garden is terraced with ironstone walls and features a second (and much photographed) formal tulip bed, daffodils, bluebells and star flowers as well as azaleas and rhododendrons and a mature hornbeam tree. The display in the tulip bed changes annually and attracts crowds (and sometimes traffic chaos) in Everglades Avenue each spring.

To the right of the gate, and up some stairs, is a significant and more recently planted native garden. The garden features a grove of spotted gums under-planted with a wide variety of native scrubs and grasses, many of which are rare. Features include a variety of grass trees (Xanthorrea glauca, X. johnsonii and X. Laterfolia) and the native cycad or burrawang (Macrozamia communis).The shrubs include both east coast and Western Australian banksias, geebungs (persoonia), hakea, grevillea, mountain devil (Lambertia formosa and L. ericifolia), Gymea lilies (Doryanthus excelsa) and waratahs. Grasses include  Libertia, Lomandra, native iris (Patersonia), Christmas bells (Blandfordia)     and tussock grass (Poa). This garden is an excellent example of modern landscaping with native plants and provides an interesting contrast to the more formal English parts of the garden.

A bush path winds through the native garden which then transitions into a grove of clivia (clivia miniata) underneath some mature conifers, a deodar and Norway spruce. Interspersed between the conifers are crab-apples, camellia and rhododendron.

At the northern end of the garden is a woodland. The garden features star flowers, and a variety of smaller rare bulbs including species or wild tulips (Tulipa saxatilis, T.clusiana), miniature daffodils, English bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta), galanthus and cyclamen. The woodland is framed by a relatively mature Wellingtonia (although at 70 years old it probably has another 150+ years of life) and an Atlantic cedar. At the edge of the woodland is a bronze Pan fountain. Like the formal tulip beds this woodland area is much photographed by visitors to Leura.

The Upper garden

The Upper garden is at the highest point of the garden and slopes gently down to a terraced area and wide stone steps giving access to the Lower garden. A feature of the garden is its mature eucalypts which dominate the skyline, whilst the garden is very much a combination of exotic and native plants. It is a combination which is aesthetically pleasing, and which has received critical acclaim.**

Entry to the garden from Holmes Street is through a gate set in a neatly clipped photinia hedge, marked by two upright cherry trees. There is then a short stone path to the house which stands at the top of the garden and overlooks the remainder of Cherrydell. The combination of native and exotic plants is immediately evident, a majestic  grove of giant scribbly gums rises through beds of azaleas on either side of the garden whilst the front door to the house is marked by a combination of gnarled “old man” banksia trees and weeping silver birch.

Beneath the house (looking east) a lawn slopes all the way down to the Lower garden. It is flanked by a flowering cherries, crab-apples and informal hedges of camellias and rhododendron. A scribbly gum rises through a clipped circular bed of Kurume azaleas and two ironstone terraced garden beds with azaleas, rhododendrons (including a spectacular Rhododendron sine-grande) and bulbs provide waves of colour in spring.  A weeping white cherry and weeping katsura add gracefulness.

Beyond the scribbly gum there is a spectacular grove of very tall grass trees (Xanthorrea johnsonii and X. glauca), the tallest of which is estimated to be well in excess of 200 years old. These are complemented by waratahs and banksias which provide colour through winter and spring.

Further down the garden, on the northern side, a grove of mature Kurume azaleas (hino-de-giri) provides a wave of colour in spring. This transitions to a curving azalea terrace behind a large golden elm. On the southern side there is a further grove of natives (including a Sydney red gum, banksias, callistemonisopogon and waratahs) before a terrace of azaleas, rhododendron, a ginkgo tree and bulbs above the Lower garden.

Wide stone steps, marked by a large multi-trunked tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) and weeping maple, invite entry to the Lower garden. 


Cherrydell is an amalgamation of three gardens.

The Lower garden was originally designed, built and planted by Paul Sorensen for the Becker family in 1946. It was Sorensen’s first post-war garden. The garden remained in the family for many years.

The garden was somewhat neglected and overgrown when acquired by the current owner in 1999. Since then the garden has undergone an extensive program of restoration and enhancement. The restoration began with the removal of some 45 Bhutan pines along the western and northern boundaries, originally intended as a hedge but which had been allowed to grow into very large trees, denying the garden of light and nutriment. This was followed by extensive planting to bring colour into the garden, a program which has continued to the present day. All of the bulbs in the garden, and most of the flowering cherries and shrubs have been planted by the owner during that period.

The restoration and enhancement has also included the removal of several buildings, culminating in the demolition of the existing house, and construction of the Fountain Terrace in 2015. Over the period further ironstone walls have been constructed by local stonemasons with the very clear brief to replicate Sorensen’s work so far as possible.

The North garden was originally part of a larger garden “Yarrawin”, which was part of the Leura Gardens Festival for many years and featured in various publications. *** Yarrawin was owned and developed in the 1950s by Misses Johnson and Sydney-Jones with guidance from Dr North, the founder of the Leura Gardens Festival. Following the death of Miss Sydney-Jones, Yarrawin was sold and then subdivided. The North garden block was acquired in 2006 to prevent a proposed development on the site which it was feared would have an adverse impact on Cherrydell. Work then ensued to amalgamate the two gardens. This involved the demolition of a garage on the boundary of the two gardens, the construction of all of the ironstone walls and terracing in the North garden, the removal of several large conifers and the planting of the native garden. In more recent years the woodland at the northern end has been developed.

The Upper garden was originally acquired, and developed from a bushland site, by its current owner in 1984. Many of the mature eucalypts on the site were retained but almost all of the remainder of the garden was planted by the current owner. The garden was linked with the Lower garden in 2000, a project which involved the removal of several conifer trees on the boundary, the demolition of a garage and derelict glass-house, and the construction of the stone stairs and ironstone terrace to the south of the stairs.


*Richard Ratcliffe: Australia’s Master Gardener- Paul Sorensen and His Gardens, Kangaroo Press 1990  Chapter 1

**Richard Stephens: “Are the days of Australian versus exotic plants over?”, Australian Horticulture journal Feb/March 2005 pp 40-41

***eg Mary Moody: Gardens of the Blue Mountains, Bartel Publications 1994; Catherine Warne: Guide to the Gardens of the Blue Mountains, Kingsclear Books 1997