Author(s): Trisha Dixon
Gardens can be formal or wild, serene or ostentatious, native or exotic, colourful or monochrome —according to Trisha Dixon, if we like a person, we will probably like their garden In a series of written reflections, interwoven with her evocative, painterly photographs, Trisha explores the relationship that exists between ourselves, our gardens and the natural landscape. Beyond the design and the plants, there is the feel of the garden, which captures the heart from the moment you enter a landscape and stays with you long after you have left. In a chapter on Gardens of the Mind, Trisha explores how artists, thinkers and writers have acknowledged and found value in the spirit of gardens and landscapes. Socrates found truth and beauty beyond Athens' city walls in a sacred grove. Closer to home, Jorn Utzon, designer of Sydney's Opera House sought inspiration and solace in a sandstone beach cave and Arthur Boyd experienced the Shoalhaven as a Wagnerian opera or a Mozart symphony. In Our Ancient Land, Trisha writes about landscapes full of stories, songlines and tracks. She welcomes the shift away from an Anglocentric approach to landscape design to one that shows an intimate engagement with the spirit of place, an acknowledgement of the Aboriginal history and mythology embedded in the land. This is not just to be found in the ancient heart of the country. In Melbourne's Royal Park, for example, bounded by noisy traffic and high-rise buildings, landscape designer Gordon Ford has created a bush pool that you'd feel fortunate to find in the interior of the Kimberley.Her message is the need to understand and respect the environment in our garden making. By approaching nature with humility, rather than a desire to control it, we can make our gardens places of beauty and peace, which nurture body and soul. She explains different approaches to garden design, exploring the teachings of landscape architects and designers of renown. And she frames this in the context of a harsh and changing climate that we need to embrace. Full-colour photographs show the golden glow of seed heads, a Eucalypt reflected in a still pool, magnificent angophoras and mossy outcrops in an escarpment garden on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Here is Annie Snodgrass' Jilba garden in Young, bursting with a Mediterranean palette of greens, purples and white. Here is Philip Cox's South Coast retreat, showing a total harmony of landscape and understated, rustic architecture.