Historical Horticulture

SkillsOne meets Naomi Jeffs from the Historic Houses Trust. Naomi Jeffs is a horticulturalist, and shows us around the gardens at Vaucluse House and explains the various aspects of a historical garden.

Naomi walks us through the Vaucluse House ‘Kitchen Garden’. A kitchen garden is the historical term given to a designated area within the estate that is dedicated to food production.

The kitchen garden at Vaucluse House contains a number of rare and period plants, historical fruits and vegetable and ‘period produce’. It was planted in 2000 and has been Naomi’s pet project since her time there.

About Naomi:

Naomi completed a trade certificate in Horticulture at TAFE in 2000 and has been with Vaucluse House for eight years. She had been working with a contractor who had some work at Vaucluse House when she heard about a full time gardener’s position that was available at the property. She applied and was offered the job.

She loves her job and has learned a great deal about historical plants and planting techniques that become more rare by the day. As such, a job with a company like the HHT has opened her up to more than standard horticulture.

She spends most of her time at Vaucluse House but works at other houses as well. Since being appointed Acting Head Gardener, her role has developed to include some of the research and education aspects of the HHT.

As such, she currently gives tours of the property, explaining the various aspects of the garden to visitors. It’s something she’s really enjoyed doing.

Her dream is to work with the National Trust in England, (or Tasmania and Victoria if she’s unable to move overseas). She considers herself fortunate to have such specialist knowledge in Victorian Kitchen Gardens and to have such a new found appreciation for history.

About the Historic Houses Trust:

The Historic Houses Trust is a statutory authority within the Department of Arts Sports and Recreation. It is one of the largest state museums in Australia and is entrusted with the care of key historic buildings and sites in New South Wales.

One of their sites is Vaucluse House, which survives as one of Sydney's only 19th century harbourside estates with house, kitchen wing, stables and outbuildings and is still surrounded by ten hectares of formal gardens and grounds.

Built in 1803, Vaucluse House was once owned by William Charles Wentworth, 'father' of the first Constitution for New South Wales, his wife Sarah and their immediate family of 10 children who lived in the house from 1827–1853 and again in 1861–1862.

This gothic style mansion includes both lavish entertaining rooms and functional 'downstairs' areas. Vaucluse House paints a picture of the social aspirations and lifestyles of the Wentworths and of the servants, both convict and free, who lived and worked there.

The interiors include original Wentworth pieces together with furniture, furnishings and collections of the early to mid 19th century. The estate comprises 26 acres and Naomi currently works within a team of six horticulturalists.

VJ Linda Mirabilio