In the Beautiful Blue Mountains

Festival 2023

Friday 29 Sept - Monday 2 Oct

The Braes

Over the period from 1907 to 1914 it was used primarily as a dairy and poultry farm and market garden for the former Chateau Napier Guest House in Leura which, sadly, was lost in the December 1957 bushfire.

The McSweeney family owned the property until 1943 when it was sold to Dr Geoffrey Hagarty who commissioned Paul Sorensen to provide landscaping and planting services. A number of the team who worked at Everglades in the 1930s for Henri Van de Velde worked at The Braes in building the drystone walls immediately adjacent to the knoll and to the west of the Gordon Creek.

There were several owners of The Braes from mid-1956 until April 1996 at which time the property was acquired by John and Margot Egan.

In the 1990s there were a number of constraints imposed on us arising from the local heritage classification of The Braes. Through working with state and local authorities, approval was granted for the significant restoration of the site and establishment of a garden with many positive cool climate botanic elements referenced to the early work of Sorensen.

The restoration project included the building of bridges, the retaining of creek banks, and the establishment of a comprehensive conservation management plan updated annually to ensure the preservation of the primary heritage attributes of the garden. 

Over the last 25 years we have overseen the site’s remediation, including the removal of significant stands of radiata pine with many other predatory and unwelcome plants and the management and mitigation of the site’s flooding. Once the site had been substantially cleared, terracing of the site commenced to match the knoll and 1940s’ landscape development. Advice was then sought for the selection and layout of planting which is in evidence today.

Today, there are over 200 varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials across the site and several viewing points, where visitors can observe the varied landscape toward the south and east and then from the eastern corner, back towards the main residence and the entrances which are more level in character.  The garden area has sculptures of varying scale, two dams; multi-tiered fountains; as well as a  west-east and a north-south-flowing creek which intersect and flow toward Lyrebird Dell and the formation of the Gordon Falls through the World Heritage National Park.”

The garden offers an extensive display of trees and shrubs some approaching 100 years old and a rich diversity of perennials and annuals. On the eastern terraces we have established a rose garden, an orchard with over 20 varieties of fruit and nut trees and planted several hundred bulbs. The propagation facility, established in the northeastern corner of the property, produces well over 5,000 plants from cuttings and seeds each year which are continually added to the garden environment.

Head Gardeners have been supported by many capable garden labourers, stonemasons and horticulturalists, guided by landscape architects and other plant specialists without whose contribution we would not have made the progress we have to date.

Gardens are living assets, require constant attention and are the subject of both interference and support of nature which in the case of The Braes has not been free of challenge – the flooding of creeks during heavy continuous rains, the early identification of phytophthora and its remediation and eradication, and the negative impact of sulphur-crested cockatoos and foxes whose activities have been nothing but destructive, to name a few.

Directions to The Braes