For five weeks in November & December, Pop-Up Gardens had the pleasure and privilege of being involved in a project called Stoneleigh #50. This was a very unusual venture, which made it all the more exciting for us!
Hailing from Marlborough, New Zealand, Stoneleigh is a well-respected wine producer, which prides itself on its unique connection to nature.
We got a call from The Feds, which is an Australian-based production company. They had been engaged by Stoneleigh to transform a heritage cottage in the city into a magical wild garden wonderland, where nature itself had appeared to creep back in and reclaim this amazing property. They used this eclectic setting to film their next TV commercial for Stoneleigh, and then also ran wine-tasting tours of the venue for the public. Each room of the house was set up to represent the tasting notes of the various wines in Stoneleigh’s range. Our remit was to manage the ongoing maintenance of the plants for the five week period – to ensure they remained in great condition right to the end.
The venue itself is an incredibly interesting building with a rich history. Grimes Cottage is a heritage-listed Colonial Georgian residence in Millers Point, with wonderful views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. An important slice of Sydney’s colonial past, the cottage was built for whaling captain George Grimes in the 1830s, and is believed to be one of the oldest homes in Sydney. Grimes Cottage and surrounding houses were transferred to the NSW government during the outbreak of bubonic plague around 1900. It then spent 112 years in public hands, before being sold at auction in 2015 for over $4million!
Working in such a historic location was humbling, exciting, and to be honest a little daunting. With all the wild plants covering the interior, it had a slightly eerie haunted feel to it – especially when I had to dart into the dark building at 6am and bolt down into the creepy cellar to switch the alarm system off!!
Maintaining so many outdoor plants that had been planted indoors presented some unique challenges – everything needed regular watering to sustain it, but couldn’t be over-watered for fear of causing damage to the property itself, or to the props and styling. There were succulents sprouting from old books, mushrooms growing out of drawers, jasmine growing out of the piano, a bougainvillea erupting from the toilet, and even a full four-poster bed dressed in cottage garden flowers.
In the middle of our 5-week stint, we had a typical Sydney heatwave, with several 40 degree days in a row. Sadly some of the plants couldn’t survive it, so I then had a mad dash out to Alpine Nurseries in Dural to find some good quality replacements at short notice. Replanting the four-poster bed with new flowers was fun!
At the end of the project, FBI Radio hosted a fantastic finale party in the back garden of Grimes Cottage, with a live acoustic set from NZ singer-songwriter Tiny Ruins.
All-in-all this was a completely unique project and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. We bow down to the creative and styling genius of The Feds, and hope to work with them again on future ventures. The TV commercial turned out really cool – it was a bit surreal to see it on the big screen when we went to the cinema a few weeks later. So happy to have been involved in this one!
Anyway, watering all those plants constantly has been thirsty work…I’m off to sample some Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc. I’ll leave you with lots of cool pictures to browse…