Katharine and her geraniums in 1967. (Photo: KSPWC archives).
Katharine Susannah Prichard’s garden was an important part of her life at 11 York Road. The history of gardens can be hard to recover but, thankfully, she left a number of descriptions behind, especially in her weekly letters to her son, Ric Throssell. In the book Between the Leaves: Stories of Australian Women and Their Gardens (UWAP, 2011), historian Katie Holmes reconstructs what she can of Katharine’s garden from the letters.
The land had already been cultivated when Katharine and Hugo moved to the house in 1920. Holmes writes: ‘The plants of her choice seem to have been exotics: rambling creepers which grew around her verandah, annuals to provide colour to the front garden, roses, lavender, an orchard with an endless supply of fruit. But there were gum trees, and grasses too.’ (177) In a letter dated 22 October 1948, Katharine wrote, ‘Got such a pretty plot of stocks in the front garden & a border of carnations. The stocks are all double—peach blossom pink & lovely mauve ones. The wisteria’s making tall white sprays, & the lavender bushes all mauve—red roses on the verandah, so the garden looks quite gay.’ Hugo had planted the wisteria and the roses near the verandah; after his death in 1933 they evoked memories of him for Katharine.
Geraniums were also important to Katharine. According to a 1996 document in the KSPWC archive, ‘Katharine planted the geraniums in the 1920s below the front verandah, on the west Side’. Local children are said to have called her ‘the Pink Lady’ because of her pink geraniums and Easter lilies. The owner of Katharine’s Place in the early 1980s, Agnes O’Kane, gave a cutting from these geraniums to the neighbours, Bob and Ann Blake. In November 1996, Ann presented Don Eade with three cuttings from the original geraniums to be replanted at Katharine’s Place.
Today, thanks particularly to the work of our landscape committee coordinator, Fern Pendragon, the garden flourishes once again. In 2006, the 21st anniversary year of the centre, members replanted the rose beds with with memorial roses; the muscat grape vine and wisteria have also been replanted on the south verandah. Appropriately for an active writers’ centre, it’s a living garden, bearing some of the same plants as it did in Katharine’s time and other new ones, providing the setting for much literary activity and conversation.
If funding can be found, KSP Writers’ Centre will be creating a heritage trail in the grounds of Katharine’s Place with signs marking sites significant to Katharine Susannah Prichard’s life. This ‘KSP Heritage’ series of articles about the sites provides information which will be used for the interpretive signage.
Overall, this is column #32 of ‘Your KS’. More on Katharine at Nathan’s blog at https://nathanhobby.com