As Australia slowly weaned itself of the ubiquitous war-time currency of coupons, and discovered that outdoors was more than a grassy backyard with clothes props, an outhouse and a fire heap to burn leaves and other household refuse, we moved slowly into the Americanisation of our leisure.
This meant that the emphasis on gardens moved from the front ‘yard’ to the back. The introduction of a steel plate set on a half 44gallon drum started the barbecue revolution, and landscaping was a new word that most of us related to a painting on a wall.
In this landscaping were the exciting changes of sandstone and rock flagging as paving, coloured geometric shapes of concrete coloured with chartreuse, rose, sky blue and hues of green worked well with new architecture. The grass was slowly giving way to the move out of doors. Swimming pools, if you could afford one, was like a telephone owned by one house in the street that everyone used.
Flouncy petticoated skirts, hostess-style entertaining among a garden fad that included rocks and stones, and the advent of motorised lawn mowers. Add to this the newly discovered hard-living plants of cordylines, agaves and yuccas. Sound familiar?
Australian garden style is like its evolution of culinary change – a fusion of different ideas, fads and cultures. Those amusing gardens with sculptured swans, made from old car tyres and other oddities such as Aboriginal statutes set in a xerophyte, meaning little need for water, setting, are all now considered as ‘collectable garden art’ if it was captured at all apart from on film. Immigrant families added their flavour with vine trellis and large and lush vegetable gardens that provided fresh and healthy food that finished up on a barbecue table.
As many of those lovely old quarter acre lots are now subdivided to an uncomfortable loss of space as we move into airconditioning, we can still keep some of the post-war garden habits alive with clever small spaces to grow good food.
That period after the war was one of the most productive. Interestingly the use of chemicals to control pest and disease – many developed for war use – came and went in a few decades when we discovered we were poisoning ourselves with good-looking food.
The post-war need to grow home vegies was also a necessity as the country rebuilt after production for war. Likewise, we could think of rebuilding our need to grow fresh food as we discover again, the war on health issues.