Monday, March 30, 2009

Garden Design in times of Recession

"The Greenhouse by Joost" Installation Summer 2008/2009

More than 5 years ago now I submitted my doorstop of a Masters thesis which analysed the subject matter of garden columns in British newspapers from 1900 - 2000 and examined why their primary focus was on plants and gardening and not on Garden Design. It emerged that over time what had influenced subject matter was socio-economic - a huge influence being World War I and II and the economic privations that occured around them.

Pre-war, between World War I and II and from 1990 articles on Garden Design became much more prolific. So the question has arisen - now the recession has hit will the trend swing back towards the more practical garden? I think the answer is probably yes. I don't think design will die a complete death but I suspect people will focus more on the design of vegetable gardens, sustainable gardens, permaculture gardens and the like.

Prior to our economic dive people were already considering the use of their land based on environmental considerations. Global warming has had an impact on the way people think and here in Australia drought has highly influenced thinking. Even the bushfires have had an effect - people seem to be re-considering what they need in their lives and I would suggest that the thinking that led to the rise of the "outdoor kitchen" is on the wane.

I've noted that on free-to-air television we are now down to about one program a week on garden makeovers. The stalwart "Gardening Australia" on ABC remains and this program has always had a very strong gardening and food producing focus as well as looking at design. Newcomers to the block include "Guerrilla Gardeners" but this is about improving our collective environment through garden design as opposed to the individual.

Prior to Christmas at Melbourne's Federation Square there was an installation by Joost Bakker"The Greenhouse" a cafe and bar designed as a temporary construction made entirely from recyclable materials. I think Mr Bakker has hit the nail on the head with his installation as I think it very accurately reflects where many people's thinking is headed not only in terms of less impact on our environment but now also with considerations of budget.

Certainly anecdotally I have found a lot of people are installing vege gardens despite the difficulty of water restrictions. I have recently joined the group "Permablitz" which sees groups of people getting together and providing the labour to turn people's gardens into productive permaculture gardens.

This week from Wednesday is Melbourne's International Flower and Garden Show - while no doubt there will be the usual array of horticultural displays, materials, plants and associated paraphernalia I hope that it will also reflect some of the aforementioned currents. In the past it has addressed drought and water conservation issues. Displays may not be the cutting edge there but they certainly reflect ideas that are catching onto the mainstream. While this is a difficult time for many I do think that adversity is often the mother of creativity. No doubt I shall post my findings.

Greenhouse Chair