James Stein describes his garden in the NSW Blue Mountains as a constantly evolving artwork.

As antiques dealer and gardener James Stein recalls the first time he visited Mt Wilson in the NSW Blue Mountains “every green finger started twitching”. About two weeks after arriving in Sydney from WA he brought his wife, Annemie, and son, also James, up for a look around. “I’d always been a gardener, and when we lived in Perth I used to spend weekends looking after my mother’s cottage garden at York,” he recalls. “But I was just bowled over by what I saw at Mount Wilson. It has the most wonderful volcanic soil, and because of the volcanic rock it’s perfectly drained. And we are blessed with water, both from the sky and the ground. We went down 40 metres and struck the most incredibly pure water.”

Bewitched as he was, it was only a matter of time before James found a property to buy. In 1989 the Steins bought Wildenstein on a 12.5-acre (5-hectare) block and James had a giant canvas on which to build his dreams. “We inherited good bones from the previous owners, who had been there for 21 years,” he recalls. “The garden is a splendid mix. The natives include centuries-old eucalypts and Dicksonia ferns, spotting waratahs, little orchids that attract pigmy possums, and banksia. To that had been added exotics including sycamores, oaks, maples and conifers. I’ve actually culled hundreds of trees, because they were too close together. Tree maintenance is very important, especially of the eucalyptus, because they provide the canopy under which everything else grows.”

The full story was originally published in the March/April 2016  issue of Australian Country. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass