The garden was designed by Danish landscape architect Paul Sorensen. Not long after setting up his own business he was commissioned by Sir James Joynton Smith to lay out the garden. Paul Sorensen already had an association with Sir James, owner of the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba. The Carrington garden was the first place at which he worked in New South Wales.
The house at the time was a Victorian mansion situated in the same footprint as the existing house. This was the start of a long association with Mahratta. When Mr Field built the present house in 1941, Sorensen was asked to redesign the garden and then after Westpac did their renovations in 1964 he was called on again.
Mahratta, possibly more than any other of Paul Sorensen’s major works, showcases his ability to combine exotic and native trees into a cohesive design. His usual range of exotics is very evident – cedars, maples, English oak, tulip trees and liquid amber to name a few. To these he has added other conifers as well as jacarandas and cape chestnuts.
With this considerable mix is a range of native trees, the leaves of which are mostly in rich glossy greens which blend with and add to the richness of foliage so evident in this garden. The native trees include the Queensland fire wheel, macadamia, Lilli Pilli, lacebark and Illawarra flame tree.
This generous variety of trees is used to articulate the spaces around the houses and to provide a dense insulation from the two major thoroughfares which flank the property. The delightful under plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias add further dimensions of texture and colour.
The sinuous red gravel drive, with its detailed brick edging and annual flower beds, divides the lawn as it sweeps toward the house where each side of the porte-cochere is marked by a dawn redwood.
A remarkable aspect of the 1.6-hectare garden are the sunken terraces to the left of the house featuring a rose garden and a lawn once used for putting and croquet. These two elements are proudly linked by a formal stairway canopied by an artfully grafted weeping cedar.
The rose garden is very formal in its layout and quite a departure from Paul Sorensen’s characteristic style. All the roses were originally chosen by him and carefully located on a drawing except for the central bed, perhaps leaving the honour of this choice open to another.
The house has a substantial courtyard surrounded by a beautiful wall in keeping with the house which has the Moon Gate for its entrance. Two Cedars shade the space and create a wonderful ambiance throughout the year.