Friday, December 20, 2013

‘Oh Brad, I’d love to show you my flower garden’

What’s not to like about gardens and their history.  

The plants they contain provide riches almost without limit, spanning an astonishing physical, social, and cultural spectrum. From utility to ornament, their almost inexhaustible patrimony has clothed, fed, warmed, protected, and inspired humans since the dawn of time.  

Gardens have profound significance to humankind. They have universal value as repositories of cultivated plants, maintained using the skills of horticulture, and ordered through diverse processes bound by tradition and innovation. They are intrinsically linked to organic nature and, through this bond, with the shared biological cycles of life cycles of humankind.  

Such associations have imbued plants and gardens with rich symbolism, venerated and celebrated in myth and tradition.  Gardens can also ornament, gratify, and inspire. In short, gardens and their plants are vital to human survival and spiritual wellbeing

Much more than art and architecture, gardening and garden-making have an egalitarian basis permitting these pursuits to be practised by a potential population many times greater than those who create other art forms. So while the spectacular gardens of Versailles, Stourhead, and Central Park are iconic destinations for garden lovers, the humble backyard vegetable patch, funky patio, arty pop-up installation, and tattered nursery catalogue are all of equal interest to garden historians.

And I’m fortunate to be in the thick of it, co-editing Australian Garden History (quarterly journal of the Australian Garden History Society), as author of books such as Gardenesque, Botanical Riches, The Garden of Ideas and Cultivating Modernism, and a passionate collector of gardening ephemera (see Brad and Janet above).

In my writing, I love the interaction between image and text, place and context, author and reader. These are all intimate and vital links that help place gardens at the forefront of Australian cultural and social history. Stay tuned.

Richard Aitken

(guest blogger)


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