Federation Gardens

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Strathfield Beauty!


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Federation Cottage Garden
Federation Cottage Garden

Federation Gardens



Federation gardens used collections of different plants, and often used hedging of Privet.
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Alba Longa, Appian Way Burwood

  • "Stands of trees, such as the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) were used as hedges.
  • The inclusion of specimen trees, such as liquidambars, jacarandas and oaks, were also a common sight in this style of garden and were planted if the room was available.
  • Exotic looking palms, such as the fan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei), were also found in federation gardens." -Don Burke

Recreated Federation Garden
Recreated Federation Garden


Federation Garden Features

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Description, by Christopher Betteridge. of Haberfield Garden design

Heritage Federation Garden
Heritage Federation Garden

Terraced garden
Terraced garden


Gardens of the period were complex and contained pergolas, rose arches, gazebos and summerhouses.[6] - //Wikipedia//
  • Wooden lattice fences were used to partition parts of the garden off, particularly the front from the more private back.[7]
  • Garden paths could be straight or gently curved, and often edged with glazed edging tiles or bricks, and made of tiles, packed gravel or bricks. patterns for brick paving include stretcher bond, herringbone and basketweave.[8] Asphalt and concrete were not used.
Haberfield Garden Path
Haberfield Garden Path


Plants were selected to produce year-round colour and interest in the local climate conditions.
  • Initially, evergreen trees were used, but the denseness of shade led to increasing popularity of deciduous trees such as jacaranda, flowering plum and peppercorn.[9]
  • Palms often framed the garden vista, and the native Cootamundra wattle was popular, as were shrubs such as Camellias and standard roses.[9] Conservatories contained begonias and adiantum fernsQA_red_roof.jpg
  • Lawns (a new trend then),
  • Wrought iron, picket fencing
  • Formal geometric garden layouts
  • Well defined borders (eg. a low wall, brick or tile edge between garden beds and a path or lawn)
  • Cacti, succulents, bulbs, perennial borders
  • Greater diversity of plants (most gardeners were plant ‘collectors’)
  • Brick or gravel paths
  • Decorative structures (pots, furniture)
  • Bird baths and sundials
  • Arches and gazebos -- Source

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Rosebery Bungalow Garden

Popular Federation Garden Plants


The nineteenth century was a time when many new plants were discovered and brought into cultivation. People at this time favoured plants with striking architectural foliage as well as those with attractive flowers.
  • Aspidistra Agapanthus, Buxus hedges,
  • Fruit trees, Hellebores, Hydrangeas, Ivy,
  • Palms, Pelargoniums, Quince,
  • Roses, Succulents and cacti, Wisteria

This Garden Plan is taken from a paper by Christopher Betteridge courtesty Heritage Council of NSW:
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Homestead 'Saumarez', Including Outbuildings, Gardens, Grounds and DrivewayNational Trust Property near Armidale NSW, gift of the White family
Homestead 'Saumarez', Including Outbuildings, Gardens, Grounds and DrivewayNational Trust Property near Armidale NSW, gift of the White family

From Webphotos Free Articles
Articles » Landscaping » Garden Types and Styles » Federation Gardens

FEDERATION STYLE

One hundred years on from Australia’s birth as a nation, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in the houses, plants and garden features of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ gardens.

WHAT WERE GARDENS LIKE IN 1901?

Toowoomba house with a collection of Hydrangeas along the verandah
Toowoomba house with a collection of Hydrangeas along the verandah

In 1901 Australia was, despite becoming a nation in its own right, still very heavily influenced by its British and European heritage. It was the end of the Victorian era, and many houses and gardens reflected the architectural features of that period. Ornamentation such as metal arches, arbors, gazebos and edging hoops were popular.

Gardening was more labour intensive and time consuming. The average home owner didn’t have access to heavy machinery, modern chemicals or fancy plastic products to create their gardens. People often grew their own fruit and vegetables, and used their home produce to make preserves.

Many of the plants that we grow today were also popular in 1901. In fact, studies have indicated that in many cases nurseries carried a greater diversity of plants than is common today. Australian native plants were very widely grown even then, but they were not used as we use them today to create bush gardens. Natives such as Callistemons, Tea Trees and Eucalypts were mixed in with exotic trees and shrubs.

WHAT WAS “TRENDY” IN A GARDEN OF 1901

  • Decorative structures (pots, furniture and buildings had decorative designs)
Urns and creeper over steps to Ascot House, Toowoomba Qld
Urns and creeper over steps to Ascot House, Toowoomba Qld

  • Federation green and other subdued colours
  • Greater diversity of plants (most gardeners were plant ‘collectors’)
  • Cacti, succulents, bulbs, perennial borders
  • More intensive and high maintenance gardens
  • Lawns
  • Wrought iron
  • Picket fencing
  • Brick or gravel paths
  • Bird baths and sundials
  • Arches and gazebos
  • Formal geometric garden layouts
  • Well defined borders (eg. a low wall, brick or tile edge between garden beds and a path or lawn)

Some of the PLANTS THAT WERE POPULAR 100 years ago

Roses growing over a garden arch atHarrow Homestead near Toowoomba, Qld
Roses growing over a garden arch atHarrow Homestead near Toowoomba, Qld

The nineteenth century was a time when many new plants were discovered and brought into cultivation. People at this time favoured plants with striking architectural foliage as well as those with attractive flowers.

*Aspidistra *Agapanthus
*Quince *Pelargoniums
*Buxus hedges *Hellebores
*Roses *Fruit trees
*Hydrangeas *Wisteria
*Ivy *Succulents and cacti
*Palms

HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN FEDERATION STYLE GARDEN
While not every Federation garden would fit the following guidelines, by applying these ideas you can create something that is akin to the style of 100 years ago.
Gowrie House, Toowoomba, showing curved garden path and hedging
Gowrie House, Toowoomba, showing curved garden path and hedging

  • Arrange the major garden features on your site with some degree of symmetry, eg. draw a line through the centre of the garden, then lay out the paths, lawns and garden beds so that they are similar in shape and size on both sides of that line.
  • Position a major feature at one or several points along the central axis that dissects the garden, eg. a pergola, archway, statue, sundial or pond.
  • Fence the garden with picket fencing painted in period colours, eg. Federation green, burgundy, cream)
  • Mix different types of plants together to create flower beds and shrubberies. Keep taller woody plants to the rear of garden beds and place bulbs, perennials and herbs in the foreground.
  • Incorporate some lawn areas, even if they are relatively small.
  • Use either gravel or brick for pathways.
  • Avoid using any plastics or other modern materials.
  • Edge garden beds and pathways with traditional edging tiles, wire hoops or a low hedge of Box (Buxus) or a similar looking plant.
  • Incorporate wrought iron (or aluminium) lacework into some part of the garden (eg. furniture or buildings).

FEDERATION FEATURES
Gazebo with views at Glen Alpine, Toowoomba Qld
Gazebo with views at Glen Alpine, Toowoomba Qld

GAZEBOS ‑ These are undercover areas designed to command a view or views. They may vary in shape from square to hexagonal or octagonal, and traditionally have a hipped or conical roof. They may be constructed of wood, cast iron, aluminium, or cement columns. Wooden shingles or palings are traditionally used for the roof, although corrugated or flat iron can be used.

STATUARY ‑ The more elaborate old style gardens displayed statues representing allegorical or historical figures set on to columns, piers and pedestals. These were positioned at various points in the garden such as grottos or secluded areas surrounded by shrubbery.

GATES AND ARCHES ‑ The addition of an arch or gate to a garden can result in a much more interesting effect. They may be constructed out of wood, wrought iron, galvanised pipe and in the case of arches, out of crimped wire.

SUNDIALS AND BIRDBATHS ‑ These can be both decorative and useful. They were usually fixed to a short column or baluster made of brick, stone or cast iron. Pre‑made sundials and birdbaths can be purchased which can then be set in to a base or pedestal of your choice. Remember that sundials are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere in comparison to those of the Northern Hemisphere.
Kensington, Toowoomba showing symmetrical garden designwith prominent trees, hedging and garden urns
Kensington, Toowoomba showing symmetrical garden designwith prominent trees, hedging and garden urns


GARDEN FURNITURE ‑ Furniture in the old style gardens varied from rustic through to the more formal. Woods such as teak and oak were popular for construction in England, while redgum and stringybark were popular in Australia. Cast iron furniture with interlaced patterns of branches, leaves, fern fronds and flowers were also popular in England and the United States.

URNS, POTS AND TUBS ‑ These were usually very ornate and rested on their own pedestal and base. They were constructed mainly of terracotta, stone or wood, and were often very heavy. Such containers were often placed on top of balustrades or walls or were formally arranged on patios, verandahs or in gazebos.

Leura Garden in summer
Leura Garden in summer

Fantastic Flora in Australia – Federation to Fifties

By Carolyn McDowall+ January 28, 2013 [http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/fantastic-flora-in-australia-%E2%80%93-federation-to-fiftiest[1] ] Extract from a larger article....
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An opal-hearted country, A wilful, lavish land, All you who have not loved her, You will not understand, Though Earth holds many splendours, Wherever I may die, I know to what brown Country, My homing thoughts will fly…*


From ancient Persia to the modern private estates of Europe, North America and Australia, the art of gardening has been one of the most consistent signs of any great civilisation and a visually rewarding expression of culture. Our ancestors had an ability to be closer to the soil and nearer to reality than we have and their wisdom, acquired through experience will benefit the future if we seek to understand and appreciate it.

Australia’s celebration for the joy of life is told in the blinding light of sandy beaches, the glint of the sun off iron roofs and the strident scent of eucalyptus trees drifting in on the cool night air. Its architectural and garden styles were developed by the imposition of European cultures on a vast continent inhabited for thousands of years by an Aboriginal people, who’s sensitive and delicate occupation of the land was no match for the invasion of western civilisation.
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England’s Captain James Cook found a well sheltered natural harbour and returned home to describe what he had observed. The English, because of his voyages gained a monopoly of knowledge. However the reason for his first landfall being called ‘Botany’ Bay was seemingly at first, put aside.

The precious flora collected, which may have helped its first settlers establish themselves, languished unpublished for years while they lived off imported seed and food. Delicately drawn details of plants by the early botanists helped plant hunters to identify rare and special species.
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....It was on January 1, 1901 in Centennial Park at Sydney, before a hushed jubilant crowd of more than 150,000 people, the new nation of Australia was proclaimed. Guns roared, whistles blew and some ten thousand children sang the national Anthem “God Save the King”. This ensured it was very emotional affair.

By now the Australian states had realized they could not ‘go it alone’ and that everyone benefited from Federation, which included nationalising defense, the telegraph and postal service systems.

It also meant that a new architectural style was born, one that was solid, stylish unique combination of elements that while a reminder of houses ‘at home’ in England retained a few ‘Aussie’ characteristics of its own.

While Federation meant we were getting on with it, Australia was still a colony of England and loyalty ran deep in her veins. The Federation House borrowed heavily from the English Queen Anne Style and added the writhing sensuality of French Art Noveau. It reflected a nationalistic flavour of God Save the King and Advance Australia Fair and was exceedingly ‘picturesque’.

It had a covered shady verandah an essential Aussie appendage to any house since colonial days. That’s where you could sit and read your book, relax and enjoy a meal with the family looking out on the garden safe from the weather, whatever it might turn out be. It also often had a large piece of land set aside for a tennis court, which by itself was an additional statement of status. With its high-pitched roofs, wooden picket fences, brick pointed detail, fantastic chimneystacks and carved and curved timbered details the Federation House was a picturesque composition of great complexity.
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Haberfield in Sydney was the first residential subdivision designed as a ‘garden estate’. Real estate entrepreneur Richard Stanton, a strong supporter of Federation, ensured that the names of early colonial heroes were applied to its streets. He even went so far as to place a covenant on the suburb to prevent construction in timber and corrugated iron.

The lead lighting in its appealing colonial cottages incorporated many designs of Australian flora and fauna. On the walls inside were pictures, a painting or photograph of grandparents, a landscape scene of the English or Scottish countryside, alongside a portrait of the old Queen or the new King.
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The people who brought the houses at Haberfield were not wealthy enough to build mansions, or to retain many servants, perhaps an ironing lady and a housekeeper. However they liked living with a parlour to entertain guests and enjoy their leisure while still retaining their dignity.
The estate comprised some fifteen hundred quality houses each believed to have been individually designed by the company’s architect, J. Spencer-Stansfield.
Notable architect and town planner John Sulman praised the comprehensive street planting and absence of back lanes previously needed for sewerage disposal. These new houses were exceedingly modern with internal bathrooms with an inside ‘loo’ so the backyard dunny was no longer required
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Aerial Shot Appian Way, Burwood


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Between 1903 and 1909 wealthy steel industrialist George Hoskins constructed another model residential estate. This time it was at Burwood in Sydney and was called the Appian Way. He commissioned designer and builder William Richards to complete it.
Richards laid out the serpentine shaped estate around an elliptical shaped recreational area that included facilities for croquet, bowls and tennis, catering for all age groups
The underlying philosophy in landscaping the houses of the Appian Way was to nestle the house into a garden with tree planting and shrubbery. It was brought up close to the house to frame the building. Within the garden of the Federation era house a sense of seclusion was important. Fences and boundaries were concealed by informal planting without preventing the sense of space from spilling over to the adjoining property.
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The emphasis was on mixed planting kept tidy, but not clipped so that the natural growth of the plant was respected. The elegant serpentine sweep of the Appian Way was beautifully planned its streets were all lined with pin oaks and plane trees. All of the houses, excepting one were single storied.
There were 36 houses one storey in height. The Victorian styled mansion, ‘St Cloud’ owned by Hoskins was opposite the new estate. Occupation was for select tenants of appropriate social standing, reflecting that in Australia at this time the British class system still held full sway. If there were roses climbing over the gate they were meant to impress.
Shaping of hedges was a characteristic of the formal styled garden and one popular in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria where walking through an arch at the front gate was all about creating a dramatic effect. In Brisbane, the capital of Queensland planting Jacaranda trees became the fashion and its mauve splendour became a hallmark of the city.
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It was important to define the street boundary because it provided the Federation house with an air of increased substance.

A solid front door was an important statement, the depth of its mouldings, the added decorative elements, the fittings were all made of quality brass and locally produced hand made leadlight glass, indicating the status and importance of the people who lived inside.
Tessellated geometric tiles with encaustic patterned centre tiles enhanced the image of a generous front porch. All manner of bells and boxes also reflected a tradition of personalized service because mail, milk, bread, ice or vegetable delivery was an integral aspect of the good life at the time.
The Wunderlich Company distributed the Marseilles tile that had arrived in Australia from France after 1892. However it was forced into local production by the outbreak of World War I.
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Gardens were not complete without a gazebo or summerhouse, which was often designed as the romantic focal point of the garden.

Conservatories too were free standing or attached to the house. They were used for cultivating, nurturing and displaying new plants and shrubs until they were ready to plant out. Ample natural light was an essential characteristic of the conservatory, along with elegant leadlight windows with sinuous decoration. It was a place to show off your horticultural prowess to others and for growing new plants from cuttings or seed.
There would rarely have been a garden constructed at this time that didn’t have a pergola, a rose arch or a trellised or latticed fence forming screens at the side of the house to grow sweet smelling sweet peas, jasmine or wonderful wisteria. Made popular by French artist Claude Monet at his garden at Giverny wisteria’s popularity has continued over the century or so since.

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W.G. Layton in his 1906 article on landscape gardens placed emphasis on garden paths. They were to be laid out in graceful sweeps, rather than straight or regular lines, as there were no straight lines in nature. The idea was that the more English a home was the more respectable was the family who lived in it.

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Rose Trellis Wallpaper, roses one of the most popular garden flowers of the Federation era


The people who lived in these new suburban houses did not like the idea of change. They were loyal to Britain, to King Edward and their families saluted the flag daily and always did their duty by King and country.
Unlike a factory worker’s house, there were separate bedrooms for parents and children. Rose Trellis wallpaper brought in from Morris and Company in England was just one of the preferred patterns used.

Lace and velvet curtains with matching cushions were popular and their were mats and rugs on polished floorboards and a piano in the corner. Somewhere in the room, perhaps on the piano, was the family bible.
The family kept warm in front of a wood fire, the wood delivered just like the bread by a horse and cart.
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Queenslander, the best option for a tropical climate

The only Australian home prior to the fifties that was designed to stay cool or warm in the extremes of a tropical climate and protect its occupants from floods and snakes was the elevated, elegant latticed timber so called “Queenslander”.

They drew their inspiration from the hill stations of India when it was part of the British Empire. Their wide verandah’s a necessity to outdoor living during the time of the summer rains.
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Their gardens grew in great abundance, especially trees the southern states couldn’t, such as fruiting avocado and mango trees, the ubiquitous frangipani and the spectacular red flowering Poinciana tree.

In Australia between the two world wars the name that stands out the most in the gardening world is Edna Walling (1895-1973). Born in England after a few years with her family in New Zealand she arrived aged 17, to study and live in the cool climate of Melbourne, Victoria .
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Edna Wallings 'The Barn'

The gardens she produced in Melbourne harked back to her days in England. A personal account of her experiences building East Point on the Great Ocean Road near Lorne, Victoria, is fittingly called The happiest days of my life.

Today she is remembered for having achieved a synthesis and unity between Australian native plants and the preferred exotics, which still inspires today’s Australian garden designers.

Bickleigh Vale was a village she developed on 20 acres or so of land she aquired on the outskirts of Melbourne city, for people prepared to accept designs for cottages and gardens that she designed.
Today most of the houses are obscured by leafy gardens, where no electric wires are visible and there are no footpaths. She lived there from 1951 to 1967 in a property she called ‘The Barn’.

She wrote ‘for my part I love all the things most gardeners abhor; moss in lawns, lichen on trees; more greenery than ‘colour’… bare branches in winter; and root ridden ground…I like sheets and sheets of forget me nots and anything else that will self-sow and look beautiful. I like soft grey green leaves, and blue, mauve and pale yellow flowers, with only the tiniest spot of red. I like white flowers both in the daytime and at night, in the house and in the garden…I like quite a lot of plants for their foliage alone, and never care if they don’t flower’.
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The Dahlia, an exotic, was the most popular of flowers coming in many colours, petal sizes and shapes. Native to Mexico, it was cultivated from 1813 in England and over the next century became a commercial success all around the world.
In Australia the dahlia was at the height of its fashion following the war during the 1950′s, helped by the fact gardeners in temperate climates could grow dahlias successfully.

An enthusiastic gardener would follow the baker’s horse and cart until they secured a huge pile of manure. Soaking it in water in metal drums they added a few ‘secret’ ingredients and then, when it was ‘just right’, the potent mixture was hand watered onto the dahlias, which would win every first prize at every flower show in town.

Dahlia’s flourished in the gardens of Federation style Houses, alongside many different sizes of Roses, Daisies, Hydrangeas, Marigolds, sweet scented Daphne, Erica, Veronica and the wonderful Spirea (May bush), whose long arching canes covered in white blossoms bent low to the ground in spring in Australia (September rather than May in England).

The strong axial treatment of a garden in the southern state of Victoria saw paths flanked by birches leading to a separate space decorated by massed shrub planting. Following the path you would reach a staircase descending between dense planting that directed the eye towards a pool of water. On the pool’s outer rim a diversity of trees shaded the water’s surface with on the inner rim the richness of rhododendrons. They look best as a massed display or when interspersed among other trees to create a natural ‘woodland’ style setting.
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…the beeches with white, naked limbs leant close to one another, their branches intermingled in a strange embrace, making a vault above my head like the archway of a church..the rhododendrons stood fifty feet high, twisted and entwined with bracken…*

Rhododendrons gained notoriety in Daphne du Maurier’s book Rebecca. They grew best in the southern states of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in Australia because of their cooler climates. Botanist and Explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) had travelled to India to collect Rhododendron plants for Kew gardens in England 1847 – 1851.

His expedition to Sikkim, a landlocked state in the Himalayas where he was imprisoned and released after an appeal to the King, was an important landmark for rhododendron gardening. This attractive shrub adapted quickly and became integral in even quite modest suburban gardening landscape both in England and southern Australia, especially in its mountainous areas and the Victorian high country.
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Today the characteristics of world design styles have been re-interpreted, distilled and decanted into something quite unique in Australia. Each reflects the cultures from which they were born.
The impact the Federation house and garden style had on all sections of society is clearly demonstrated in that even today it can still fulfill its original residential function with relatively little need for change.
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Its picturesque relaxed informality and richness is now appreciated fully by those lovingly caring and conserving these symbols of our nationalism. Their gardens were integral to a time and place, when a mixture of exotic trees, shrubs and sometimes birds like peacocks were an integral aspect of the display.

There was a genuine fascination with Flora that when displaced from its original environment managed to adapt and flourish. It was intriguing to observe the new characteristics plants developed to suit the regions in which they found themselves.

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A glamorous Hollywood style house on Sydney's North Shore with a garden filled with exotics, magnolias, azaleas and camellias, and a unique Canadian Redwood tree


Many uniquely styled Spanish and California inspired bungalows were built in Australia between the two world wars and they established sensational exotic filled gardens. Following World War II, and inspired by the French and American Art Deco styles of the twenties and thirties glamorous Hollywood style houses were added to the mix.

They had romantic gardens in which azaleas and camellias flourished together while white magnolia trees were planted for love. Masses of exotic ground covers spilled out and over terraces, which were defined by dry rock walls.
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Fountains were also a popular focal point, while pergolas groaned with the weight of the flowers of the Bouganvillia which flourished in the noon day sun.

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Mawarra, garden design Edna Walling 1927-1933


Being able to select plants that will thrive in different climates is part of the legacy of knowledge we have inherited from the early plant hunters and collectors. From the 1970′s onward Australian flora finally came into focus in a land re-newing its identity as immigration swelled and multiculturalism became a human, as well as plant reality.
During these heady times gum nuts from eucalyptus, the vibrant yellow bracts of wattle, or mimosa, the brilliant red spikey elegant bottlebrush, kangaroo paw, all types of protea and everlasting daisies were all exported. Today they grow happily in California and southern France, while Australian native cut flowers can be bought in American, French and English flower markets.

Give me a home among the gum trees
With lots of plum trees
A sheep or two, a k-kangaroo
A clothesline out the back
Verandah out the front
And an old rocking chair.
Some people like their houses
With fences all around
Others live in mansions
And some beneath the ground
But me I like the bush you know
With rabbits running round
And a pumpkin vine out the back #

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2011 – 2013


Related posts:


  1. Fantastic Flora in Australia – First Fleet to Federation
  2. Australia – A Multicultural Land of Opportunity
  3. Federation Houses – Sunday Best Personified
  4. Art of Living Well – Antiquity to a Residence Australia
  5. French Garden Style – Josephine at Château de Malmaison

Further Reading:


9780195536447 - Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens
9780195536447 - Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens

  • PLANTING THE NATION edited by Georgina Whitehead (2001)
    Planting the Nation explores Australia's landscapes and gardens between 1890 and 1914 offering perspectives on garden design, horticultural developments, city planning, architecture and social history during this remarkable period. 208 pages, 250 x 175 mm, hardback, with index.
  • Peter Cuffley's book Cottage Gardens in Australia, (revised edition published by Five Mile Press), ISBN O 86788 863 6. Rrp $29.95
  • Open Gardens Australia
    ISBN 978-1742704937, Paperback, Hardie Grant Books, Australia, August 2012
  • Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens
    ISBN 978-0195536447, Hardback, by Richard Aitken, Michael Looker, November 2002, now scarce
  • The character of Federation period gardens / by John Robert Calvani, Calvani, John Robert [ Thesis : 1987 ]
  • Federation gardens, Betteridge, Chris, in Reflections (National Trust of Australia (New South Wales)
    [ Article : 2001 ]

  1. ^ http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/fantastic-flora-in-australia-%E2%80%93-federation-to-fifties