Dr Christina Dyson Rethinks Australian Natural Gardens

Context Associate Dr Christina Dyson recently published a paper, ‘Rethinking Australian natural gardens and national identity, 1950-1979’. It is available in Gardens at the Frontier: New Methodological Perspectives on Garden History and Designed Landscapes, a special issue of the international quarterly Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes edited by James Beattie.

An abstract follows:

Dramatic changes to Australian cultural life following the Second World War prompted the search for new sources of meaning and the fresh negotiation of Australia’s national identity. Coincident with this process, and most notably through the 1950s to the 1970s, garden writers and garden and landscape designers were exploring new concepts for Australian gardens and designed landscape. Seeking a design ethos that would be recognised as identifiably Australian, they looked to Australian native flora and indigenous landscape themes for inspiration. The material distinctiveness of Australian native flora and indigenous landscape was crucial to the delineation of identifiably Australian gardens aesthetically and to the articulation of a national culture and identity—as has been recognised by others. Yet the Australian natural environment also served another, hitherto unexplored, function in the reformulation of understandings of national identity in the context of Australian garden history. This function was connected to the deep sense of time it was imagined and scientifically asserted to embody. Through the demarcation of natural landscape as primitive and thus belonging to antiquity and as embodying a living past linked to the present, the garden and landscape design discourses of the period considered in this account conceived in the natural landscape a shared sense of history and a national heritage and culture that stood in the place of European Australia’s Anglo-European cultural inheritance. These processes of re-imagining foundational myths and stories were central to renewing understandings of national identity and to the emergence of natural garden design in post-war Australia..

Download the complete article here.

[Citation: Christina Dyson (2016) Rethinking Australian natural gardens and national identity, 1950–1979, Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 36:1, 53-64, DOI: 10.1080/14601176.2015.1076669]