The Secret Garden of Wendy Whiteley.

Moreton Bay Fig trees: Majestic Boabs:
Patterns of light flit through palms:
Bird’s nest ferns: Statues: Seats:
Flowers edge upon winding:
Walkways: An OASIS:
It is called. ~Ally.


The  spectacular view from the Secret Garden: Lavender Bay spanning from Luna Park to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city skyline. The garden extending all the way down to the railway siding.

And we shall walk and talk in gardens: All misty and wet with rain. ~Van Morrison.

Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden.

About a year ago a friend invited me to have lunch with her at Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay, Sydney.

It was a week day as we sat on a seat, quietly, in a protective grove of bamboo absorbing the atmosphere: Joyful: Peaceful: Nurturing: Healing. Watching couples leisurely strolling through the garden, mothers with their boisterous pre-school children and the occasional business attired person, escaping from the bustle of North Sydney.

Top Entrance to The Secret Garden.

The garden is terraced on an extremely challenging steep site, with many of the trees and plants, sculptures and other objects of interest holding a personal meaning for its creator, Wendy Whitely.

All the plants used are ideal for the Sydney climate and combined to provide harmony and contrast of colour, shape and texture. Dramatic bold leaves contrast with lacy foliage and brightly coloured flowers with various tones of green.

Moreton Bay and Port Jackson figs, jacarandas and boabs, palms and bamboo, ferns and flowers come together in artistic harmony.

Visitors can also sample edible plants as they meander up, down and along the pathways following the line of the escarpment. No harmful chemicals are used in this garden.

The view from the top entrance of the Secret Garden, leading down to an enchanted open space from where pathways wind up the steep incline in all different directions.

And we shall never never grow so old again. ~Wendy Whiteley.

Wendy Whiteley.

Wendy Whiteley was wife, muse and model to Australian artist, Brett Whiteley. When Brett died, followed by the death of their daughter Arkie nine years later, Wendy threw her grief and creativity into making an enchanting hidden oasis out of derelict land owned by the New South Wales Government. ~Janet Hawley.

Brief History of the land. 

The Secret Garden was once a picturesque harbour beach surrounded by sandstone cliffs but then in 1890 the inlet was buried in landfill, to enable the railway line to travel across the mouth of Lavender Bay.

The resulting ‘rubble valley’ became an unusable wasteland for the next century, overgrown with weeds and lantana: Until in 1992, Wendy Whiteley awakened its new incarnation when she began making her Secret Garden.

Aesthetically combined trees and plants ~ Many of them indigenous to Sydney/Australia ~ Have now attracted a wide variety of birdlife that was previously unknown to the area. If you love kookaburras and magpies this is the special place to be, early in the morning.

Loss is something all people end up dealing with one way or another. Sometimes loss can seem too much to bear, but we must allow ourselves time to get through the stages of grieving. I’ve never owned it (the garden) but I do feel as if I am its mother. ~Wendy Whiteley.

Future of the Secret Garden.

The reclaiming of the land for public use is a tribute to Wendy’s creativity, passion and tenacity, the delightful working relationship she has with her four gardeners and the volunteers who have continuously supported her project.

At considerable personal expense, Wendy initially reclaimed the derelict land, strewn with items such as discarded old train carriages, abandoned refrigerators and children’s toys ~ A tricycle was converted into a featured piece of garden sculpture.

The artist was then able to treat the garden as if it were a giant painting ~ Structuring, planting, pruning, moving things around, and letting nature do its work.

But until recently, the future of the garden had been extremely precarious, as Wendy initially created the garden without acquiring ‘permission’ to do so ~ On what is now regarded as ‘prime real estate.’

Thankfully in 2015 the Secret Garden was granted a 30-year lease by the New South Wales Government, with a 30-year renewal option.

Pathways converge ~ Handrails of twirling timbers ~ Railway sleepers border pathways. MAGIC lives in this garden. Let yourself be guided on the pathway you will take.

I’ve loved making this garden. It’s been a great gift to my life. It let me find myself again, and it’s my gift to share with everyone. ~Wendy Whitely.

My own Secret Garden.

The garden I have created in my own backyard over the past 8 years, pales in significance to Wendy’s Secret Garden ~ Although there are similarities in our stories.

In a future article I’ll illustrate the transformation of what was a pile of rubble (including discarded furniture and screen doors) covered with wandering jew, bordering a council storm water drain, into a thriving mini-rainforest oasis. I will also describe the nature of healing that working barefoot ~ Once all the glass and rusty wire had been removed ~ In a beautiful garden can bring.


Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden by Janet Hawley:

New battle over Secret Garden by Nicole Hasham:

The Healing Power of a Magical Garden: William Yeoman:

This article was originally posted at my Steemit website and titled: The Secret Garden of Wendy Whiteley.

All photographs: ©Alison Lee Cousland.

The Centre of my Heart

Is the Centre of my heart:

A place where my life:

Can begin: 

Again and again and again? ~Ally.

Background for ‘The Centre of my Heart.’

The assemblage for ‘A Heart filled with Joy’ formed the background for this next stage of the ice piece: Where larger rocks, meeting the edges of the rock-pool are covered with miniature pink azaleas and double jonquils float like waterlilies upon the surface of the water.

The Heart Remembers its True Fragrance.

As the heart absorbs the beauty of the Jonquil you can become more of the being you truly are. The essence of the Jonquil can help to ground you and the fragrance reminds you that you are stepping into a ‘New You.’

Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. ~Marianne Williamson.

The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. ~Marianne Williamson.

Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. ~Marianne Williamson.

The Centre of the Heart.

If the centre of my heart is where my life can begin afresh each day ~ And any moment of the day ~ Why do I forget to simply stop what I am doing every now and then, to simply feel the beating of my heart?

And how would my life change if I started to do this TODAY ~ At this very moment.

When I gently place my hand over my heart ~ What do I feel? What else do I come in touch with now?

Playing with assemblage.

How I ‘work’ ~ Rather ‘play’ with my art of assemblage: I pause, feel my heartbeat, listen to the sounds about me, feel the space around me ~ And then just softly gaze at what is there before me ~ What is it calling for?

I have a bountiful assembly of rocks and shells, sand and water, dried and fresh flowers on my table, window ledges and shelves. And I let myself be guided to select what is needed for the container of water, ice, sand or rocks, whatever it happens to be, before me.

Sometimes I have to work/play very quickly, particularly when ice is my media. But even then it only takes a second or so to feel the pulse of my heart once more ~ Calming any extraneous thoughts.

How can I be in touch with the centre of my heart? 

It’s a two way stream: And my wish is that it can always be one continuous cycle:

I connect with my heart, my breath, my being and connect with the beauty I am working/playing with.

I connect with the beauty of fragments of nature and the placement of them and reconnect to my heart.

To experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. ~Marianne Williamson.

Sharing my images at Tumblr.

The above image was featured on the Tumblr Radar: In effect making it visible to millions of Tumblr users and attracting over 6,000 notes.

After sharing my art and photography at Tumblr for a little over two years, establishing many non-verbal connections with some wonderful artists and photographers: Earth ♥︎ Sand ♥︎ Water ♥︎ Ice is now my avenue for a fuller expression of  my work.

Images can speak directly to the heart ~ Without justification. However the experience can be further enriched when the underlying meanings and associations of pictorial elements are understood.

This ‘understanding’ can be quite personal ~ As no two minds need to think alike.  Therefore the messages that come to you may be quite different to those I receive.

About my work:

Relatively small assemblages are built from flowers, weeds and plants combined with other natural materials that I find in the local bushland or surrounding urban streets.

During the creation of these pieces ~ The process is incredibly magical. Thoughts of anything else are silenced. I simply watch as the different elements greet, merge, compliment and/or contrast  with each other.

Hundreds  of photographs are taken at different stages of the arrangements. Then ideas/thoughts/words that come to me, as I look at the resulting images give form to a new expression ~ Short ‘poems.’

Most of my materials, like these shells and stones,  and the lichen covered branches and twigs are recyclable. After being photographed all the materials are gathered up and restored. The flowers are often floated in bowls of water, as simple house and garden decor.

Introduction at:  Welcome to Earth ♥︎ Sand ♥︎ Water ♥︎ Ice


I work with the notion that the energy that supported the creation of these assemblages in ice ~ Can be made palpable in these photographs.

In viewing these images you may be led to see another dimension to them, from your own reality.  If you have other layers of thought to add ~ Please do.


Welcome to Earth ♥︎ Sand ♥︎ Water ♥︎ Ice

My Background:

After working with many traditional art modalities: painting, drawing and printmaking, mixed media and photography, environmental sculpture and ephemeral art ~ My art making has now become far more attuned to working directly with nature.


I work with relatively small assemblages, built up from branches, twigs and fronds, flowers and other plants, combined with other natural materials like pieces of bark and seed pods, that I find in the local bushland or surrounding urban streets. I liken these arrangements to ‘nests’ and ‘towers.’

Arrangements in Ice:

I also work with arrangements of these and other natural materials in earth, sand, water and ice. The creative process is similar ie start with one element, pause, and see what it needs. Just the tangible processes vary: Adapting to suit the medium.

Creative Process:

During the creation of my artscapes the process is all embracing and incredibly magical. Thoughts of anything else are silenced.

I fall in love with the individual pieces of nature, fresh or faded that I’m using and then how the different elements can greet, merge, compliment or contrast with each other.

I’ll describe some of the processes involved with the production and photography of individual works in my articles.


Hundreds of photographs are taken at the different stages of any one artscape, that can’t possibly capture the actual beauty I see with my eyes or the feelings felt while adding and removing, arranging and rearranging components.

As selected photographs are given just a touch of Lightroom magic, I watch them give form to new expressions, that often can be enhanced by other ideas/thoughts/words that come to me, as I look at the image.


Words based on the actual image and the symbolism of the elements that have been used are manipulated, as a collage of words, into short ‘poems.’ Words are also based on what has been or is happening in my day/week/month/year/life:  A quote I’m drawn to, a comment on a social network, a spoken word ~ Whatever I am sensitive to in my surroundings at the time.

Sometimes the resulting ‘poems’ show me aspects of a piece that I couldn’t see before. As do comments from other people ~ Who may see and add another layer from their own reality.

Comments are Welcome:

So if the beauty of a white chrysanthemum flower on a dried stick covered with lichen speaks to you ~ I’ll be most delighted to hear your thoughts.