APRIL 17 Australian Garden History Society Launch of "Australian Gardens Making History"
Picture: Tea Rose "Monsieur Tillier" , South rose garden at "The Shambles"
Kyleigh & Dr Michael Simpson's new book AUSTRALIAN GARDENS MAKING HISTORY – The Vital Role of making and Keeping Garden Inventories, ISBN 9780-080430455 was launched at an Australian Garden History Association gathering at Noosa Botanical Gardens on 17th April 2011.
This book is of 86 pages with 6 pages of illustrations. The soft cover has been designed to resemble an old fashioned mail order nursery catalogue. It includes a 2 page liftout suggesting techniques to start a garden plant catalogue. The book was written in an attempt to record evidence for the "heritage credentials" of a large number of hardy commonly grown garden plants, using 19th century Queensland and other Australian references.
The early references are used a bit like archeological stratigraphy to demonstrate the earliest availability which the authors could find for Australian gardeners.
Also this book records the inventory of plants in a modern garden as one model of how other gardeners interested in garden history may catalogue their own garden, or record a garden of historic interest. Kyleigh and Michael Simpson contend that recording historic gardens plant inventories is a vital task for members of the Australian Garden History Society according to the aims of the association. This sort of evidence gathering is required by various articles of the "Burra" charter when researching and maintaining heritage places, including gardens..
Michael, whose enthusiasm and humour always shines through, gave an interesting and thought provoking presentation on the importance of documenting Queensland gardens. Methods of obtaining information and user friendly means of keeping records were discussed and it is something which we could all consider for our own interest and the interest of others in the future. How often have we taken over gardens with wonderful, hardy plants that we can't identify? Also plants may no longer be available in the ever diminishing nurseries of today which seem to churn out only what is 'the flavour of the month'. If new owners see that a garden has been worth documenting they may be less inclined to destroy it and they may even discover that it actually is 'easy maintenance' as it has stood the test of time usually without the help of irrigation.
Other contentions were that gardeners who have written garden plant inventories need to do three more things. These vital documents for future horticultural, social and historical researchers need to be detailed, interesting and readable. Secondly, garden inventories need to be published and distributed in print, online and via website links to all who may or may not be interested. Lastly, garden inventories should to be maintained, edited, criticized and discussed especially by members of the Australian Garden History Society.
Lake Macdonald [Noosa] Botanic Gardens was the site for our Book Launch and lunch attended by 17 members and friends. We enjoyed a wander through the sub tropical gardens containing a wide variety of plants, on the shores of Lake Macdonald. The gardens are extensive with lots of paved pathways, picnic shelters and lawns which were being enjoyed by many groups. Unfortunately, the Fernery which looked interesting with a large collection of plants, could only be viewed from the outside on week-ends. Another attraction was the amphitheatre overlooking the lake which provides a spectacular venue for a variety of events. This garden is a great public asset provided and maintained by the local Council on Water-board land.
Local Heritage Rose Society and Cooran Garden Club members, Hazel and Ron Treloar, then led us on a tour of 3 gardens on a relatively new estate at Pomona. The area had originally been dairy farms with some orchards of mangoes, custard apples and lychees on the red soil sections.
A few eucalypts were all that remained on the acidic grey/black soils over clay which were bounded by remnant wet lands near the gardens we visited. Needless to say, all gardeners were having drainage problems which they were dealing with through the use of raised beds, lots of compost and appropriate planting which has been trial and error after the drought. All gardens [1.5-2 acres] rely on rainwater or bores and were owned by passionate, hands on gardeners and each provided refreshingly different approaches.
We began our tour at the home of Val, Noel and Mark Sweeney. The garden is 8 years old with lots of colour and a wide variety of plants including many of the well known cottage favourites. Visitors were envious of the growth of the plants with the Camellias and the Tibouchinas being quite large and spectacular in flower. Another plant to attract interest was the large shrub Carphalia kirondron covered in rusty red, ixora type flowers. Fruit trees and veges were also flourishing.
The next garden was more of a 'green' garden with splashes of colour being provided mainly by foliage. Owners, Chris and Lance Crowe came to this garden from Adelaide 4 years ago. At that stage the garden was six years old and the previous owners had put their stamp on it with palms and neatly clipped plants. It is hard to believe that the new owners were non gardeners who are educating themselves and now addicted. This is a garden in transition as Chris is enjoying the Queensland tropical look and gradually removing those plants that are more at home in the southern states. The relaxed tropical planting which forms a backdrop to the pool behind the house is where they have begun to experiment and it is a credit to them. It is lovely to wander along the shady paths bordered by interesting and colourful understorey plants. It is good to see people taking time to get to know a garden and making changes to suit themselves gradually. After all isn't this what the evolution of gardens is all about? Recording this evolution by recording changes in the garden plant inventory and mapping and photography is one of the emphases of Michael Simpson's book and talk.
The last garden owned by Jeanette and Kevin Rae for 9 years, borders the wet forest areas and so they have faced quite a challenge with drainage. Large, curved raised gardens sweep through the lawns with a lovely, natural transitional edge between the two which not only looks good but enables easier maintenance. The backyard has the added bonus of a 'borrowed landscape' providing a backdrop and some shade for this lovely area. Paths meander through the tropical style of planting and you are enticed in all directions. A wonderful stand of the clumping Bambusa ventricosa, 'Buddha's Belly' bamboo is a great feature. The use of the very large inground concrete tank as an outdoor sitting area with a roof being constructed over it at present, is a wonderful design idea that is not used enough.
It is good to see that gardening is still alive and well as we go through this period of great change that began with the combination of the dry weather and the busier lifestyles of today. Hopefully the importance of trees and gardens will be recognized and not lost so that they continue to provide the welcome retreats of past eras. These modern gardens, with plants maintained to a high standard, are certainly examples which require cataloguing and description of their plant inventories to assist researchers of early 21st century Queensland gardens.
For more details of "Australian Gardens Making History, the Vital Role of Making and Keeping Garden inventories" see Kyleigh and Michael Simpson's website www.montvillegarden.com or contact then at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Lees AGHS