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New books: The Gardener’s Garden and Garden Design Close Up celebrate …

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Reuss takes gardens – the outdoor space attached to a penthouse in Hanover, for instance – and distils critical “design ingredients”. So for the German courtyard (almost identical in appearance to the penthouse interior, save for the carpet being grass and the sculpture being a collection of multi-stemmed Amelanchier lamarckii in futuristic white planters) she talks about simplicity, humour, limited colour, allegory and unity.

It doesn’t make it into the German section of The Gardener’s Garden, however, and it is telling just how little crossover between the two books there is. While both have some historic spaces in common (the Loire Valley’s Chateau de Villandry, say, or Kyoto’s Ryoan-ji) and both describe the off-beat offerings of Derek Jarman on flat shingle spit in Kent and Jacques Majorelle against a backdrop of ultramarine in Marrakesh, there are whole sweeps of gardens that each book has on its own.

It’s a sign of both how much there is to choose from, and how subjective any final selection must be. While The Gardener’s Garden entries were nominated by a team of consultants around the world, Reuss chose hers with an eye to presenting a “wide range of styles and situations”. 

Diversity – both geographically and historically – is central to both texts though with one of the key differences being in how the variation is presented. Reuss divides her book into thematic chapters, with the one titled “Art”, for instance, including an entirely fake part-French-Renaissance-part-Japanese Zen affair on the roof of an American office building with no water source, no maintenance provision and a negligible weight-loading capacity (thank you, Martha Schwartz.)

The Gardener’s Garden, however, is structured by locale. Discussion of the great piles of stones and statuesque indigenous plants that painter Wendy Vincent and sculptor Geoffrey Armstrong have been amassing in a humid ravine an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, follows a profile of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town.

That book kicks off, though, with Australia and with 12 gardens selected by Victorians Richard Aitken and Christine Reid. Eight of the landscapes are in Victoria, including both contemporary – the Australian Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, Fiona Brockhoff’s in Sorrento and Phillip Johnson’s in Olinda – and historic, with both William Guilfoyle and Edna Walling represented.

Reuss, who lives in London, mentions none of these but describes another two Australian gardens in her text – both roof gardens. There is the living roof at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne (the hot-red hard landscaping means it is in the “colour” chapter) and one 29 floors up in Sydney complete with  a hot tub, fountain, pond, lawn and box hedging (it is in the “Lifestyle” section.)

But for Australian readers who can actually visit many of these gardens, the pleasure in these books is sampling some of the minutiae of what’s happening elsewhere.

 The Gardener’s Garden, Phaidon Press, $95; Garden Design Close Up by Emma Reuss, Thames Hudson, $49.99



The vulnerability of indigenous grasslands has been a subject of much discussion and it seems even those created as CBD art-installations aren’t immune from the pressures of modern life. Linda Tegg’s field of 10,000 local plants was  less than two weeks old  when a large swath of it was moved aside to park a couple of cars, lay down carpet and install a promotional structure in front of the State Library of Victoria.

John Delpratt, an honorary fellow in horticulture at Burnley who helped grow and install the plants, says that while the promotional disruption was only temporary it was impossible to return the installation to its original state.  He says the treatment of the Grasslands exhibit, which is in place until November 23, is indicative of the sort of responses some people have to what is seen as “natural vegetation”.

Open Gardens

An eclectic garden at 4 Crimea Close, Rowville, is filled with cuttings, self-sown plants, gifts and found items and is one of eight gardens open this weekend. Others are in Balnarring, Panton Hill, Athlone, Lardner, Gol Gol and Swan Hill. Go to for more information.


More than 140 botanical works by artists from around Australia are included in the The Art of Botanical Illustration exhibition organised by the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. The works were selected from 300 submissions, by a panel comprising an artist and a botanist, and will  be on show until November 9 at Domain House, Dallas Brooks Drive, Melbourne, 10am to 4pm weekdays, 10am to 6pm weekends, 10am to 4pm.


The geographically and botanically diverse East Gippsland contains more than 200 orchid species and these have all been detailed in a comprehensive field guide to be launched next week. Members of the Bairnsdale District Field Naturalists Club have been monitoring the region’s orchids (mostly terrestrial but some lithophytes that grow on rock) for decades and have now produced a lengthy guide, which includes descriptions and photographs of each species. Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne senior conservation botanist Neville Walsh will launch Orchids of East Gippsland – A Field Guide at the Bairnsdale library on Friday evening. Go to for more information and details about where to get the guide, which costs $35 or $40 with CD.

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