Gardening Australia


- Horticultu­rist, writer and seasoned tour leader JUDY HORTON reflects on the rise of domestic and overseas garden tourism

Jane mentioned the way that garden tourism has changed our gardens over the years. It’s true that by the 1990s, travelling for the purpose of visiting gardens was firmly establishe­d as a pastime, both here and overseas.

In Australia, private gardens opened for public viewing through Australia’s Open Garden Scheme, an organisati­on that began in Victoria in 1987. Hundreds of thousands of people visited gardens around the country thanks to AOGS. Sadly, the national organisati­on folded in 2015, but state versions are still operating successful­ly.

For internatio­nal garden tours, the early ones were mostly taken by ship, but, as air travel became cheaper, the great gardens of Britain, Europe and America were suddenly just a few days away. Horticultu­ral celebritie­s, such as Allan Seale and Kevin Heinze, were engaged to lead tours, an experience that any tour guide will tell you is equal parts exhilarati­ng and exhausting.

I remember one of the early guides noting that he was expected to stay up with the late-night revellers in the group to take part in evening post-mortems on the merits of the day’s destinatio­ns, then rise at dawn to accompany the daybreak enthusiast­s on their morning walks!

Back on home soil, large and small garden clubs and charities also arranged local garden viewings, and garden shows began to flourish in all states. Historical gardens were opened by organisati­ons dedicated to their conservati­on, such as the National Trust and the Australian Garden History Society. Landscape designers persuaded clients to open their gates, so visitors could come and see the very latest in outdoor trends.

While the pandemic has put a brake on all this, we’re bound to see enthusiasm soar as freedoms return. There’s a new wave of garden enthusiast­s keen to see what others are doing, and to borrow ideas or share a few of their own, in the quest for wonderful green spaces.

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