CHANG­ING LAND­SCAPES

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Garden -

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.

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