Australian Ambassador’s Residence and Garden: Lima, PERU

(Please note: as this blog has been transferred from our old website some images are low resolution.)

Late last year I co-led a tour to South America with Warwick Forge from the Australian Landscape Conference.  Joined by a group from Australia, Scotland, New Zealand and England, we began in Lima, Peru where Australian Ambassador, His Excellency John Woods, and his wife Mrs Gay Woods welcomed us at the official Australian Residence.

The Residence is in Barranco overlooking the ocean. 

Landscape Architect Rafael Alvarado with Gay Woods at Casa Cor

Landscape Architect Rafael Alvarado with Gay Woods at Casa Cor

Official residences are frequently the venue for functions for diplomatic and business-related visitors.

When the Woods moved to to Lima in 2010, the large garden at the back of the home was uninspiring and unkempt but Gay felt that someone with design skills and horticultural knowledge could help transform it.

Winter in Lima is from May to November when the city’s covered in a blanket of cloud and fog. It’s damp – but it actually rarely rains – averaging 10mms per year! The only other season, summer, falls between December and April and that’s when it’s more likely to be sunny and pleasantly warm.

When home in Australia the Woods enjoy our outdoor entertaining lifestyle and wanted to make the most of their Lima garden also. Gay engaged Rafael Alvarado to bring life back into the garden and make better use of the landscape.

After studying architecture at Universidad Ricardo Palma, which included a brief unit on landscape design, in 2004 Rafael spent a year at the Edinburgh College of Art to study a post grad course in Landscape Architecture.

With no faculty for LA in Peru, there’s not a strong culture of garden design however, with the enthusiasm of professionals such as Rafael, this emerging art is sure to gain momentum.

Above: Early Work…

Gay wanted the garden to be attractive, functional and especially welcoming. There couldn’t be any major earthworks as the premises are rented, not owned, by the Australian Government however with some relatively simple but effective ideas the garden became a vibrant landscape.

I was surprised to find jasmine flowering at the same time as hydrangeas. In Australia jasmine heralds spring and hydrangeas are summer flowering but in Lima’s fairly consistent climate, fewer plants are triggered by the weather.

Rafael laments the loss of many of the beautiful old buildings in Lima that are being replaced by buildings with ‘less character and quality’.

In the Woods garden he chose traditional plants used in many Limeños’ gardens – especially a lot of flowering ones such as dahlias, roses, hymenocallis, hippeastrums and cannas. Most gardens in old houses also featured fountains and water vessels.

An important addition was the veggie and herb gardens which provide a source of fresh food for Bato, the chef.

The raised beds are both attractive and practical.
Samuel, the gardener, found himself in a new profession and takes enormous pride in keeping the grounds pristine.

A familiar plant: the bottle brush (callistemon) which was already in the garden is a favourite with hummingbirds.

It’s difficult to get perspective when looking at this garden – the area is vast but there’s considerable detail around the perimeter.

The central lawn is suitable for large marquees for functions such as upcoming Australia Day when several hundred Peruvians, and others from around the world, celebrate with Ambassador John, Gay, and the Lima diplomatic staff.

Rafael has included many fragrant plants and climbers.

Rafael has designed a nook. It conceals the entrance to some staff accommodation, providing privacy as well as a layer of intrigue.

There’s a lovely rhythm to the beds – they curve and curl around the perimeter.

Everywhere, plant combinations have been considered; some are quiet and harmonious, others bright and even electric – which is the perfect foil for Lima’s overcast days.

A large deck, overlooking the ocean and adjoining the main house, leads to the garden pavilion and guest accommodation.

The garden pavilion is light and airy and the perfect place for indoor palms.

At dusk, sometimes you get a sneak peak at the sun over the ocean as it descends below the cloud bank!

In the evening, subtle lighting transforms the Woods garden into an elegant, serene landscape.


At the time we visited Lima, Casa Cor, an interior and exterior design display was being held nearby. Designers are invited to transform a run-down mansion (there are many in Lima!) – this time it was the Palacete Sousa in Barranco. Rafael was one of the landscape designers and his garden had a theme of recycling.

Almost everything had been reclaimed – including some pieces from the building itself – such as floor boards that needed replacing, and plaster cornices that had seen better days. Rafael had created a delightful garden that ironically was refreshing in its use of pre-used elements!

If you’d like to see some blogs I’ve posted on our Australian Landscape Conference Gardens and Cultural Landscapes tour through South America here’s the link: http://rabbidgetravels.tumblr.com

You’ll need to scroll through to begin at Peru, followed by Chile, Brazil then Argentina. I still have one to post on Colombia.

If you’d like information about a similar tour for 2014 contact Warwick Forge: warwick@bloomings.com.au

logoHappy gardening!

Kim Woods Rabbidge

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Readers’ Comments:

Great and really enjoyed my visit to South America from my armchair!
Happy New Year to both of you and keep up the good work.
Sue Bredhauer Qld
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