Agents at Leisure:
The Enduring Influence of Edna Walling
Marshall White Director, James Redfern has a long-standing passion for the arts. Here he explores the career of landscape designer Edna Walling, and the influence her gardens have had on Australia. Having had the pleasure of selling a number of properties accompanied by Walling’s gardens during his 30-year career in real estate, James reveals why he believes they stand the test of time.
One of our most prolific landscape designers, Edna Walling’s influence on twentieth century Australia was immense.
Originally from York, England, Walling moved to Australia via New Zealand with her family around 1914. She studied at the School of Horticulture in Burnley before beginning work as a gardener in Melbourne and by the early 1920’s she had established a flourishing practice in garden design. Her focus was garden construction rather than horticulture and she was renowned for designing some significant Arts and Crafts style gardens.
Always looking to achieve harmony between house and garden, Walling drew inspiration from Italian and Spanish landscape design. A competent artist, Walling would often produce vibrant watercolour plans to convey her vision to her clients.
With a distinct and sophisticated style, her gardens typically exhibited a strong architectural character with features such as walls, pergolas, stairs, flag stones, colonnades, archways and pools. Her gardens were designed to be lived in and enjoyed, creating the perfect sense of scale and intimacy. She worked with consistent types of plants, favouring greens and pastel tones, combining natives with exotics. Walling advocated for the creation of garden rooms, which were interconnected by pathways. Later in her career, she became keenly interested in native plants and as an active conservationist, she fought to protect the natural environment.
One of my favourite examples of Walling’s work is at Cruden Farm, the former home of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, where she designed The Walled Garden in the early 1930’s. I’ve been there myself and highly recommend a visit. It is such a beautiful place and the lovely gardens change dramatically during the seasons. Located in Langwarrin, it’s less than an hour from Melbourne and well worth the trip.
As Australia’s first woman land developer, Walling created a village at Mooroolbark, a suburb about 40 kilometres east of Melbourne, called ‘Bickleigh Vale’, named after the village in which she grew up in Devon, England. Here she brought to life her vision for English style cottage gardens. She built a house for herself, known as ‘Sonning’ and subdivided the rest of the land on which she designed a number of English style cottages. The village remains intact today and survives as her largest single creation and an extraordinary experiment in urban design.
An accomplished writer, Walling published four successful books and a fifth posthumously. She wrote regular gardening columns in ‘Australian Home Beautiful’ magazine as well as contributing articles to other magazines.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of selling a number of properties with her gardens. Known for their trademark stonework, harmonious flowing spaces and lush green gardens, they are very liveable and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Her designs stand the test of time and continue to be highly esteemed today.
About the Author
James Redfern, Marshall White Director
Renowned for his sense of integrity and sheer professionalism, James is one of the industry’s most innovative practitioners. As a director at Marshall White, he also heads-up our training program, passing on his accumulated knowledge to new generations of real estate practitioners.
View more about James here.