When Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris moved to Highbury in 1964, the garden was relatively bare. Aerial photos of the site in 1943 would confirm this as very little planting is evident surrounding the house. Existing landscaping included a grassed buffalo front lawn flanking a red cement path, a few small trees in the front garden, a rose garden near the front fence, and trees next door on the double block of No. 22 and 24. White and Lascaris valued a garden and were responsible for establishing the majority of the existing plantings and garden structures. The gum trees and 2 surviving pines were planted by Lascaris and White. The pine trees were grown from 3 seeds collected at Manoly’s request by the photographer Laurence Le Guay from three different locations in Rome, and the River Red Gums were sourced from Mr Angles’ uncles’ property on the Macintyre River, NSW. The plantings reflected Manoly Lascaris interest in attracting the birdlife to the garden.
The gardens contain a large, older specimen River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) near the entry gate and a smaller tree of the same species on the slope nearby. This tree is of substantial scale and proportions standing 18 metres in height, 12 metres in canopy spread with a 1.2m diameter base. The smaller River Red Gum is likely to be self-sown from the seed of the larger specimen.
The two Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis), a small Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) and other generic natives including Grey Gum (Eucalyptus punctata), Lemon-scented Gum (Corymbia citriodora), Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata) and Rough-barked Apple (Angophora floribunda) are believed to have also been planted by White and Lascaris. These trees would all date from the late 1960’s to early 1980’s period.
The two Aleppo Pines are believed to have been grown from 3 seeds collected at Lascaris’ request by the photographer Laurence Le Guay from three different locations in Rome (Walker, M., 1996). Together, the component species create an eclectic native and exotic mix of planting which is considered to be of significance at the local level mainly in terms of their associations with Patrick White.
The residence and grounds at 20 Martin Road, Centennial Park, widely known as the ‘Patrick White House’ (and earlier known as ‘Highbury’), are scheduled on the State Heritage Register as items of outstanding significance due to the association with Patrick White, internationally acclaimed author and Australia’s first and only Nobel Prize Laureate for literature. The house and gardens are also located in the Martin Road Conservation Area. This urban conservation precinct was originally subdivided in 1905 to help fund the development of Centennial Park and is scheduled in City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012. The subdivision is comprised of largely intact, grand residences dating from the Federation and Inter-War periods.
The Patrick White House, originally built in 1913, was designed by prominent Sydney architect, William Nixon in the Federation bungalow style. It was formerly known as Highbury. The NSW Heritage Inventory states that the house and gardens offer a “rare and remarkably intact record of the writing environment, lifestyle, inspiration, tastes, activities and interests of Patrick White at the peak of his career from 1964 until his death in 1990” (Walker, M., 1996). In 1964, Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris moved from Castle Hill to ‘Highbury’ and together were responsible for much of the existing garden layouts, landscaping and plant selection. The elevated garden contains a mix of native and exotic species. It is heavily influenced by the Australian native garden style which gained momentum during the late 1960’s-1970’s period.