The gardeners whose creations are featured in Claire Takacs’ new book Australian Dreamscapes share a common desire to create beauty with plants. That might seem obvious for a garden book, but consider how often gardens are pressed into services that have nothing to do with appreciating beauty or plants – outdoor rooms, above-ground swimming pools or outdoor kitchens, perhaps. And think too of how often gardens are squeezed into an aesthetic that rejects the life and death changes inherent in plantlife. The gardens that move Takacs are those that move – shifting with the seasons and over time to create images of beauty that are aligned with natural rhythms.
Takacs is an Australian garden photographer renowned for using the magical light at sunrise and sunset to create dreamy garden images. She works in the US, Europe and Australia, chasing gardens at their high point. Her first book Dreamscapes, featured gardens around the world, and in the new book she stays local, with 15 Australian gardeners telling the story of their gardens in their own words, accompanied by her emotionally rich images. The gardens are linked by what she calls “naturalistic gardening”: plant-focused, biodiverse, gardened with a sensitivity to the surrounding landscape and environmental conditions, and driven by a desire to create beauty.
This is gardening with a boggling degree of difficulty and the gardens presented here are not just dreamy but inspirational. Simon Rickard, who is one of our garden masters, as well as being a baroque bassoonist, now gardens his own place in regional Victoria, after eight years as Head Gardener at Heronswood, the Diggers Club garden on the Mornington Peninsula. His garden is an ongoing experiment in plant combinations, growing techniques and ideas and he finds a resonance between the emotional pull of both music and gardens. “For me,” he explains in the book, “ornamental gardening exists at the intersection of the visual arts, architecture and music. In that space, shape, texture, colour and the three-dimensional form interact with the fourth dimension, time. Gardeners compose not only using shapes, colours and textures, but also consider how their creations will develop over time – as the light changes from hour to hour, but also from season to season, and eventually over the years and decades.”
Rickard’s garden, like others in the book embody gardening at its most ambitious. Most are private, so only the gardeners and their friends get to experience those moments of illuminated beauty that Takacs captures with her camera. But a few are open, so don’t miss the chance to see them for real. David Glenn’s Lambley Nursery, outside Ballarat in Victoria is open every day; Frogmore, near Trentham in Victoria is open in autumn, and Hillandale, between Lithgow and Bathurst in NSW is open in spring and autumn.
Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs is published by Hardie Grant Books at $60.