The living collection at Meroogal

Front verandah of green wooden house with garden wrapping around.

The garden at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

Just as the interiors of Meroogal were assembled over a century, so too its living collection – the garden - reflects the four generations of women who called the Nowra house home.

While today the garden bedding at Meroogal is largely recreated, there are many notable long-lived survivors from its earlier history: the iconic jacarandas, a port wine magnolia, a towering lillypilly. A plum which is smothered in white blossom this week is the same one that Helen Macgregor posed in front of for a photo in 1930.   

Black and white photo of woman in garden, in front of wooden paling fence.
Helen Macgregor in the front of the orchard fence at Meroogal, Nowra, around 1930 / photographer unknown. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums
White flowering tree.
Damson plum in bloom at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

The beds have been planted to evoke its appearance in the 1910s to the 1930s, drawing especially on its last owner June Wallace’s memories for specific plants, and photographs that show its layout. Today the borders leading to the north veranda look as they did when ‘the gardener’, one of June’s aunts, stood in her ‘sweet garden’ in 1919. 

Garden beds.
The garden at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums
Black and white photo of garden beds.
'The sweet garden again' [Meroogal, Nowra], around September 1919 / photographer unknown. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums
Black and white photo of figure in garden in front of house.
'The gardener in her garden' [in front of Meroogal, Nowra], around September 1919 / photographer unknown. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums

June’s memories tell us of the yearly pattern of the garden: in spring bulbs ran riot - ixias through the garden beds and freesias which grew across the lawn in a great fragrant drift - to be replaced with summer annuals as they died back. Fragile plants were grown to the east side, protected from the dry westerly winds. The beds against the fences were filled with roses, larkspurs and delphiniums, and edged with gerberas. Nandina was a favourite, its lacy leaves used in flower arrangements just as they are used today by the house staff.

Black and white photo of two women wearing hats, holding flowers on table with small girl seated.
A young June Wallace with her aunts holding bunches of flowers on Flower Show Day 5.9.19 [in the garden at Meroogal, Nowra] / photographer unknown. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums
Pink multi-petalled flowers with light yellow centres.
Gerberas growing at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums
Pink rose with yellow centre with bee.
Roses growing at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums
Flowers growing in grass.
Freesias grow in the lawn at Meroogal. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

About the author

Dr Scott Hill

Curator

As a teenager, Scott Hill was captivated by pictures of ruins, trying to imagine how people had lived in these dramatic and crumbling spaces.