Last year I bought the Australian House & Garden-published book Great Australian Gardens. The whole book is drool-worthy for a garden lover, particularly a lover of old, country gardens like me. But there is one photograph of a garden in Tasmania that stops me in my page-flipping tracks every time I open the book.
It overlaps pages 142-143 and is of the garden of a former coaching inn in Tasmania that dates back to 1826 called The Jolly Farmer.
The thing is, I have never really stopped to examine WHY I am so smitten with this image. What is it about this particular part of this particular garden that makes me stop and stare? So today I sat and overanalysed my feelings in the hope that I could take some things and incorporate them into our garden.
Firstly, I think that the enormous shade trees have an awful lot to do with my swooning. The trees are not identified in the accompanying caption, but it is easy to make out a gingko biloba and possibly an English oak or an ash. Regardless, they are big old established trees and they are GORGEOUS! So, my number one take-home from this is that it can’t be easily replicated… No amount of analysing is going to produce 100 year old (plus?) trees. But we are planting plenty of (potentially) big shade trees, so in many years to come we may have a semblance of this space.
Next, whilst the predominant colour is green (the owner says “I’d rather have greenery with just the odd bit of colour”), there is a splattering of pink and white to keep your eye wandering and interested. My favourite colours in the garden are white, pink and purple (funny, as they are my least favourite colours everywhere outside of the garden!), so this is probably a big source of the appeal of this image.
I also love the symmetry in the man-made structures in this garden - the shed lines up perfectly with the gravel pathway, which lines up neatly with the perfectly squared raised vege beds. This is pleasing to the eye because it contrasts nicely with the mixed-height, thoughtfully “jumbled” plants. I have never been drawn to the perfect parterre with neatly edged box hedges and symmetrical plantings, but the symmetry in the structures (as opposed to the plants) is deeply appealing here. This is good because my husband is a very precise structure builder (think: multiple spirit-levels, hours of minor adjustments), and we have squared lines in our vege beds and adjacent chook coop. My haphazard planting doesn’t diminish this symmetry - rather it probably acts to enhance it. I think we need to continue this pattern in future structures, which leads me to…
That shed! Okay, so I don't particularly need a potting shed. We have an enormous garage with plenty of space for my gardening things. Butttttttt, we do ‘need’ a greenhouse, and this shed is giving me all sorts of inspiration for what might work in our garden. Something that is charming, has character (or could earn some in time) and a classic shape.
Lastly, the gravel paths that lead to, and around, the vege garden beds. We have simple crushed granite pathways throughout our backyard and orchard and they work wonderfully to lead the way. In The Coopermarket however, we have no paths. We have been steadily dumping weeds in there to try to bring some life back into the ground, which had been stripped of all topsoil. It is working really well, to the point that the spaces between the raised vege beds are now often overgrown. If we don’t get in there with the mower once a week it becomes a bit of a jungle, and a jungle out here means great hidey-holes for snakes. I have noticed that lately I have spent even less time than usual in The Coopermarket because I am a bit sketched out. So I wonder if we shouldn’t put gravel pathways between each of the eight garden beds (possibly with a green belt down the centre, where we have an ornamental pear tree…), to help to keep it all clear around the beds? This is a new definite-maybe project!
I think those are the major things that draw me in to this photo. It’s interesting sometimes to take a step back from the photos that really appeal to us (the ones that we are pinning or tearing from magazines or post-it noting in books) and pull apart WHY we love them so much. Even if the only thing to be learned is to plant 150 year old trees :)