Swain Gardens

This is a “secret” garden not known to many except locals as it is not visible from the street so you have to know where to go, and we have visited this garden many times over the years and taken many interesting photos there.

Swain Gardens is an oustanding example of an extensive garden and is listed as a significant local heritage item. The Gardens are the creation of the prominent Sydney bookseller Arthur Newling “Mick” Swain. In the early 1960s Mr. Swain discovered that approximately 8.5 acres (3.4ha) of land adjoining his home had been sold to a developer. To save the area he purchased the entire development.

Over the next decade or so he planted a large collection of exotic trees and shrubs to create what are now known as Swain Gardens. Mr. Swain modified the difficult terrain by constructing terraces and bridges using stone recovered from the Tank Stream after excavations beneath his Pitt Street book shop. Two full-time stonemasons worked for more than ten years on the construction. Arthur Swain died in 1973 but
to ensure Swain Gardens were preserved, he bequeathed the property to the National Trust for public use. Unfortunately the task of maintaining the garden proved to be a larger task than the Trust anticipated and in 1978 Ku-ring-gai Council took over the Gardens and responsibility for their care and maintenance.

Two creeks cross through the garden, and there are adjoining small pockets of bushland. One to the east of the gardens next to Swain’s family house (now a private residence) consists of Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest. Significant Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum), Eucalyptus pilularis (Blackbutt) and Syncarpia glomulifera (Turpentine) trees dominate this area.

The other is named the Wombin Reserve and connects Swain Gardens to Nelson Road.

Significant features of the garden includes a Garden Room, Swimming Pool Garden (now a wisteria terrace), a Sandstone bridge, “House in the Forest” sculpture, and multiple levels. The lower level once contained a pool but now has a cedar tree and camellias.

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Posted by Chris Tham

Chris Tham is a co-founder of Visual Voyager Pty Ltd, the Principal Voigtländer Ambassador for Mainline Photographics and a Workshop Instructor for Mainline Photo Academy. She brings over 35 years of experience as a photographer to her role, starting with a Yashica rangefinder belonging to her dad, joining the Photography Club in school, and developing her own photos. More recently, Chris has been taking photos during her travels, and as a result has experienced some of the most interesting places in the world. Chris focuses on nature, street, and urban architecture subjects in her photography.