An Australian who led the way for women in broadcasting in America, and her American husband, who reported several major historic events of the twentieth century, have spent the last 17 years living in Mudgee and creating their dream garden.
In 2001, with family bonds tugging at their heartstrings, Susan Bray and Ed DeLong left their home in Philadelphia and came to Mudgee, to care for Susan’s mother and sister. They “fell in love” with the property Ardrossan, and here they have transformed what was a somewhat run-down garden, into a gracious and romantic haven for people, birds and animals.
The house is set well back from the road, hidden by trees, with a decorative iron archway announcing the main entrance.
But it’s at the eastern side of the house that Susan’s and Ed’s gardening vision is fully expressed. A shady entrance invites exploration.
Through the banksia rose-covered archway, a path leads to a deep verandah under a canopy of ornamental grape vine and wreathed in climbing roses.
The premises are guarded by the two dogs, Ruby and Honey Bun.
Here, using furniture brought from their home in America, Susan and Ed enjoy quiet times, reading, or perhaps drinking champagne with friends. Moonlit nights are magnificent, with a view over the garden and pool, and across the paddocks to the hills beyond.
Twilight and moonlight accentuate the pale rose blooms.
The verandah, being deep and shrouded in greenery in the summer, provides a space for more tender plants.
Here I sit with Susan and Ed and they tell me about their lives before they came to Mudgee.
Susan’s career as a radio broadcaster began at 2MG in Mudgee, and later took her to America via Vietnam and the Philippines. She was a pioneer, the first woman to work as a talk-show host on several American radio networks. This is how she met Ed, who was a guest on her talk show.
Ed was a reporter and editor for United Press International. This placed him at the centre of numerous historic events. He was in charge of media coverage at the Houston Space Centre, and reported on the Three Mile Island nuclear power station accident and the John F Kennedy assassination.
After they settled in Mudgee, Ed worked as Corporate Communications Manager for Mid Western Regional Council, and as editor of the Mudgee Guardian, for several years. He became an Australian citizen in 2004, and, like Ed, his citizenship tree, a bottlebrush, is flourishing at Ardrossan.
Many of the plants and garden ornaments at Ardrossan hold memories of Susan’s family and friends, whilst others nurture her and Ed’s dreams for the future.
Rose “Seduction”, is fondly nurtured by Susan and Ed, as a gift from friends on their 60th birthday.
Now the couple lives a quieter lifestyle, in the company of numerous dogs and cats, their flock of Damara sheep and the guard-alpaca, and various other resident and visiting birds and animals.
Ed likes the garden to be well trimmed, neat and tidy. He keeps busy with ambitious garden projects, and his Rural Fire Service duties. Susan likes the garden to be less formal, and romantic. She keeps busy making sure Ed doesn’t get over-zealous with the hedge trimmers.
Susan’s mother, Esme, was a well known Mudgee gardener and president of the garden club. She had a magnificent secret garden at her home in Short Street. So it’s no secret where Susan’s love of gardening comes from.
A quiet corner with Cannas from Susan’s mother’s garden
Cheal’s weeping cherry, which Esme told Susan she absolutely must have, in her garden.
Susan’s garden, and the stories she tells me, show that she wears her heart on her sleeve. She tells me about the individual plants that were gifts from friends, about bulbs transplanted from her mother’s garden. She shows me her father’s ladder which she rescued and used as a trellis to grow a beautiful climbing rose.
She shows me the rose arbour which has been used for weddings and which she hopes will be used again in the future. It’s covered by a cascading Pierre De Ronsard rose.
Pierre De Ronsard from beneath the archway- Susan says, “You don’t have a soul if you don’t say “ooh” when you see it”.
Susan shows me the fountain, its centrepiece brought over from her home in America, now a central feature in the lawn at Ardrossan.
Fountain and rose “Mr Lincoln”
Where the garden merges into the surrounding paddocks, Ed is constructing an island in the large pond they call “Lake Esme”. It will be landscaped in a Japanese style. An elegant stone lantern, from Esme’s garden, its central feature, will be visible to Susan from her favourite chair on the verandah.
Romance abounds in this garden.
There are so many roses, here’s a selection of my favourites.
Climbing rose “Paul’s Scarlet”
Archways draped with trailing roses, leading to secret places, will remain untouched by Ed until after the flowering is finished.
Dutch Irises add vibrant colour in a shady spot by the pool.
Bird houses, bird feeders and bird baths ensure a constant stream of feathered visitors, and provide a safe haven for them.
As a whole, the garden embodies what Susan and Ed, with their differing approaches and styles, have created, together.
A garden can link its creators to the past, can send its creators’ vision into the future, and can tell the present who its creators are and what they value. Susan’s and Ed’s garden at Ardrossan does all of those things.