In complete contrast, the garden at Sea Peace on the far North Coast turns its back on paddocks and broad-acre residential development to recreate the wondrous native forest which existed before land-clearing. Its trees are layered with orchids and staghorns and under-planted with Helionias and Hedychiums.
For some, the classical garden ideal remains, but is interpreted in a new way. Horse Island on Tuross Lakes has been transformed with sweeping lawns among tall-trunked eucalypts framing views to distant mountains. The somewhat formal garden provides a distinctively Australian experience by only featuring indigenous plants. Nestor Farm, near Berry, recalls great English gardens where smooth lawns descend between clumped trees to a lake. The tradition has been reinterpreted to grand effect using distinctive East Coast rainforest trees.
Landscape opportunities in a big city are different. In Sydney the survey discovered several innovative gardens which are settings for historic houses. In the city, large private gardens are rare, and inventive outcomes in the public realm are vital. Paddington Reservoir Gardens and Prince Alfred Park demonstrate the importance of the public park as a haven for urban dwellers, while the outstanding roof garden above apartments at MCentral in Pyrmont brings a meadow into the heart of the city.
Making a larger garden is an age-old pursuit to create one’s own earthly paradise — a beautiful retreat from the everyday world. A more expansive ‘canvas’ enables the exploration of bold ideas, and the Library is recording these remarkable creations as an important reflection of our own age.
Planting Dreams: Grand Garden Designs, curated by Howard Tanner, was a free exhibition from 1 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.
This article first appeared in SL magazine, Spring 2016.