Karlyle Cottage: An Inspirational & Diverse Package Of Garden Ideas


It’s hard to believe you could get so much into such a small garden. Karlyle Cottage is an inspirational and diverse package of garden ideas, that outshines some of the best known gardens around Australia and the world.

Karen and Lyle Clinton have demonstrated in a stunning way, what imagination, determination, and a little horticultural knowledge can achieve on any quarter acre block. It does take time. The have spent 25 years developing this garden.

"Our main aim for this garden was to incorporate as many interesting small vistas as possible, without making the garden fussy. It was once said to us that our garden was like five acres condensed into a quarter acre." Karen has a passion about European gardens, drawing inspiration from books and magazines. 

While not strictly a formal garden, aspects of order and formality so often seen in European gardens are to be found everywhere. The Clintons have used plantings, trellis and other barriers to subtly divide their garden into a series of garden rooms. In doing so, the visitor continually encounters unexpected images every few steps.

Upon entering the front yard you hear the sound of water; but it isn’t until you are half way to the house before you realize it is coming from a stunning sandstone water well, tucked into the far corner. The backyard is largely hidden by the garage and a high set veranda, until you enter it through a small gateway. Immediately the eye is then drawn to a small formal parterre garden featuring hedging, dwarf conifers and contrasting white gravel pathways.

You don’t even notice the rest of the backyard at first, because it is partially obscured by planting, fencing, and trellis. When you do finally move on, the path leads through an archway to reveal a small but ornately attractive summer house come gazebo. Moving towards the gazebo allows you to see behind the garage for the first time, and what you see is totally unexpected: an oriental pavilion, fitted out with comfortable furniture, under a roof but fully open to the garden on two sides.

The Oriental Pavilion overlooks a large water garden; which the Clintons created by sinking their kids disused swimming pool into the ground. They even have an in ground spa to one side of the deck: well used by Lyle at the end of a hard days work (Lyle is a lawn mowing contractor).

The thing that really makes this garden work though is the planting. This is a plant enthusiasts paradise. Plants have been selected and combined with great care to create spectacular effects of colour and texture all year round. These permanent plantings are added to further with annuals.


With such a seemingly complex garden, one would expect the weeding, watering and pest control to be a full time job; but the Clintons have even got those things well under control. By applying thick layer of weed seed free mulch two or three times each year; the weed problems and water needs are both minimal. Along with the mulch, cow manure is also used liberally, keeping the soil very fertile.

The water features together with dense and diverse plantings encourage and support wildlife; and the wildlife in turn helps control insect and other pests. Karlyle Garden supports frogs, fish, blue tongue lizards (which eat snails); and a wide range of birds including wrens, finches and honeyeaters.

We often read that plants will be healthier and more resistant to pests and diseases when the soil is kept moist, fertile and well drained. If you want proof of this fact, you need not look any further than Karlyle Garden at Blaxland in the Blue Mountains.

In more recent times, Karen and Lyle have helped offset their gardening costs by hiring the garden out for wedding photos. They are now considering moving to a larger property (nearby) to create an even larger garden; so look out for even better things in the future.

Over the years, this garden has been part of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. The Open Garden Scheme provides opportunities for you to visit hundreds of private gardens around Australia every year. If you want to see their full range of offerings, buy their book from ABC shops (and news agencies). Similar schemes operate in England and other countries.


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