Gardens are one of the indicators of civilisation. It is said that the first references to gardens occurred about 4,000 years ago but only since 79 AD has there been clear evidence of designed gardens. Curiously it is the preserved ruins of Pompeii that show what this ancient art was like. Gardens are by nature ephemeral; no matter how old or important a garden might be, it can virtually disappear with changing circumstances: bad weather, loss of financial resources, loss of heart. Thus documenting significant gardens is relevant to our cultural history. The State Library of NSW commissioned Howard Tanner to carry out the Contemporary Gardens Survey of significant gardens created since 1980; an history of recent garden design.
The Survey and resulting exhibition – Planting Dreams: Grand Garden Designs – has opened at the State Library. Tanner has focused on larger gardens both public and private. Having selected the gardens, which are all in NSW, four photographers were commissioned to record the 21 gardens for the Library’s records and for posterity. Most of the gardens are in regional areas but several are in Sydney; among the public gardens are Paddington Reservoir, Lindesay, Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, and Prince Alfred Park. The quest for beauty and wish to create a patch of paradise are demonstrated in the exhibition which happily parallels the 200th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens next door.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues