A stroll through our gar­dens

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - WAYNE CRAW­FORD


Words and pic­tures by Liz Fran­cis ( Forty South Pub­lish­ing, $ 45)

AS Peter Cun­dall would say, “it’s bloomin’ won­der­ful” – a spec­tac­u­larly pro­duced new book about the work of a group of botanic artists who joy­fully toil away in sun­shine and rain, hot weather and bliz­zards to cre­ate what must be among the most gor­geous gar­dens you would find any­where.

Gar­den­ing is one of the truest of all art forms: work­ing with liv­ing land­scapes, en­dur­ing ex­treme weather con­di­tions, and com­pet­ing with possums and wal­la­bies which would rather chew than ad­mire the ef­forts which go into con­vert­ing bare pad­docks into show­case gar­dens.

For her sec­ond out­stand­ing book on Tas­ma­nia’s botan­i­cal bounty, au­thor/ pho­tog­ra­pher Liz Fran­cis has pro­duced Gor­geous Gar­dens of Tas­ma­nia: An Is­land Odyssey, which de­serves at least to share a place with Huon pine bowls and bot­tles of wine as tourist keep­sakes and gifts used to pro­mote Tas­ma­nia.

In the two years since the pub­li­ca­tion of her first book, Gor­geous Gar­dens Way Down South, Fran­cis and ever- pa­tient hus­band, as­sis­tant and chauf­feur Ge­off Fran­cis drove thou­sands of kilo­me­tres to in­spect, pho­tographe and in­ter­view the own­ers and creators of 30 of the most pic­turesque gar­dens in Tas­ma­nia.

While Gor­geous Gar­dens Way Down South was re­stricted to mostly pri­vate gar­dens hid­den away in ar­eas such as the Huon, the Chan­nel and other places south of Ho­bart, Gor­geous Gar­dens of Tas­ma­nia took the cou­ple on an odyssey as far afield as Edith Creek in the North West and Rin­ga­rooma in the North East, back down to Glen­de­vie in the south­ern Huon.

The new book is packed with pic­tures which do jus­tice to the glo­ri­ous gar­dens. Fran­cis has a nat­u­ral eye for photography, and chose the sea­sons in which gar­dens were at their best.

All of the gar­dens in the new book are open to the pub­lic, if not reg­u­larly or per­ma­nently, then at least once a year or by ap­point­ment.

Many of the big gar­dens fea­tured – the Royal Tas­ma­nian Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Ho­bart, Port Arthur His­toric Site Gar­dens, and the Launce­s­ton City Park and Cataract Gorge Gar­dens, for in­stance – are open daily, some around the clock.

Kay­dale Lodge at Ni­etta in the North is open ev­ery day ( lit­er­ally from dawn to dusk). Many of the other gar­dens are open reg­u­larly or by ap­point­ment.

Some­thing that struck Fran­cis was the ex­tent to which vol­un­teers with vi­sion, en­ergy and com­mit­ment have made mag­nif­i­cent gar­dens from bro­ken and de­graded land.

The Emu Val­ley Rhodo­den­dron Gar­den near Burnie, the Tas­ma­nian Ar­bore­tum near Devon­port, and the Tas­ma­nian Bush­land Gar­den near Buck­land are amaz­ing ex­am­ples, she says, of what can be achieved by a group of like- minded vol­un­teers who con­verted de­graded land into su­perb gar­dens.

Now, the gar­dens are wholly main­tained by vol­un­teers.

“We all know how hard it is to keep peo­ple en­thused about a project, but th­ese three gar­dens man­aged to do just that and the re­sults are amaz­ing,” Fran­cis says.

The Emu Val­ley Rhodo Gar­den is in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed – “It is fan­tas­tic,” says Fran­cis – all be­cause some peo­ple fol­lowed their dream and set about turn­ing it into re­al­ity.

Vol­un­teer­ing even ex­tends to the Royal Tas­ma­nian Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Ho­bart and En­tally Es­tate at Had­spen, where vol­un­teers help main­tain the prop­er­ties.

Fran­cis sees her books as ac­knowl­edg­ing the con­tri­bu­tion made by gar­den­ers. “Every­body loves be­ing in a beau­ti­ful gar­den, even if they don’t par­tic­u­larly want to make a gar­den them­selves,” she says. “What­ever your prob­lems might be, they are in­stantly erased by im­mers­ing your­self in a lovely gar­den.

“I think we un­der­es­ti­mate the so­cial value of our gar­dens and the plea­sure that gar­den­ing brings to so many peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life. It would be nice to see more recog­ni­tion of their con­tri­bu­tion to our com­mu­nity.

“There is also a need to ac­knowl­edge the eco­nomic value of gar­dens as tourism at­trac­tions and the op­por­tu­nity they pro­vide for peo­ple to visit dif­fer­ent parts of the state.

“Prospect Villa at Hamil­ton is worl­drenowned and has been the sub­ject of many ar­ti­cles. Wy­ch­wood at Mole Creek is another world- class gar­den which has been writ­ten about all over the world.”

Fran­cis says it is sur­pris­ing Tourism Tas­ma­nia does not recog­nise that gar­den tourism can be of huge ben­e­fit to the state.

New Zealand, Canada, the UK and many other coun­tries have thriv­ing gar­den tourism.

She says Tourism Tas­ma­nia has shown lit­tle in­ter­est in pro­mot­ing gar­den tourism, hav­ing “hugely di­min­ished” what lit­tle sup­port it gave to the gar­den lovers’ or­gan­i­sa­tion Bloom­ing Tas­ma­nia, which sought to en­gen­der in­ter­est by in­sert­ing vol­un­teer- pro­duced brochures in the na­tion­ally cir­cu­lated Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia mag­a­zine.

While there were a lim­ited num­ber of pri­vately run gar­den tours in Tas­ma­nia, Fran­cis says the gov­ern­ment tourist agency was miss­ing out on a ma­jor promotional op­por­tu­nity.

“Cool cli­mate gar­dens are the best gar­dens of all,” she says. “We can grow so many things with ease pro­vid­ing the wildlife lets us.”

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