Monday, June 27, 2011

Sculpture In The Garden

Since Venus, God of love and beauty, was hailed as the presiding deity of gardens by the Roman poet Varro she has been blessed with a long and prosperous reign and sculpture in the garden has continued to be an important ingredient in garden design throughout the history of constructed landscapes.

Many contemporary sculptures still explore the ideal of Venus through the female form. The voluptuous sculptures of powerful female forms by Gaston Lachaise in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery in Canberra are a wonderful contemporary example of 'figures' in the landscape.

The gardens of Renaissance Italy were outdoor museums, in the original sense of 'homes for the muses'. Classical sculptures, excavated from the ruins of Greece and Rome, were displayed in gardens and considered to be an aid to contemplation, and a taste for placing classical statuary spread with the Renaissance to northern Europe. Henry VIII of England placed sculpture in his garden at Nonsuch, begun in 1538 and Louis XIV assembled a vast collection at his grand palace at Versailles.

Today sculpture has once again enjoyed a renaissance in garden design and with a dazzling selection and price range to choose from, there are sculptures to suit every garden, courtyard or balcony. From classical or modern stone and bronze statuary to contemporary pieces in steel, stone, timber and a multitude of materials, the choices are limited only by the artist's imagination.

This collection of images is from Sculpture at Peppers, located in the magnificent, historic gardens of Craigieburn Peppers, and features the work of Stephen Oatley, Thomas Buchich and Stephen Coburn, who were invited to exhibit large scale sculptures as part of the Southern Highlands Festival of Wine, Art and Roses in November last year.

We don't all own grand garden estates like Craigieburn but sculpture can be incorporated into the garden design of any outdoor space to create a dramatic focal point or quiet area of contemplation. Just as the classical sculptures in ancient Roman gardens nurtured the ideals of love and beauty so too can sculpture in our gardens today create that same sense of love, beauty and contemplation

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Berry Nice Place To Visit

I was singing that great Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid song, "Raindrops keep falling on my head" as we pulled up to the gate of our good friend's property perched high on Bundawallah Mountain, overlooking the very picturesque township of Berry, the Shaolhaven River and heads to the south, and north to Gerroa and Gerringong. What a beautiful vista!

Even though it was raining it still provided that wonderful feeling of bliss, this is my time, my time to be inspired by the beauty that surrounds me. There is rain forest at the western edge of the property with mid aged Australian cedar trees, deep green, fanning canopies that provide a haven to the many varied local native birds, with ferns and bracken at their feet and tree ferns towering into the green.

Down on the southern edge a vista straight from the Sound of Music opens up - lush green, grassy paddocks fall away to the south, mountains and mist, clouds and distant paddocks and cattle grazing with the occasional Mmmhh breaking the quiet of day.

To the north, a couple of neighbour's dwellings huddle into the deep folds of the land, with silvery wisps of smoke rising upwards in the cool air. A little closer to the fence and the view opens out to a herb and vegetable patch, the size of a tennis court. Rows and rows of delicious green vegetables ready to be picked right now.

As I walked to the back deck of the farmhouse the view to the east opened out, Mount Coolangatta, a mountain of dark and bright greens, shaped like a pyramid resting quietly against a grey blue patchy sky.

Silver serpentine, adorned with she oaks, swamp mahogany and port jackson figs, the Broughton Creek wends its way through quiet dairy paddocks, disappearing and then reappearing through a copse of tall, broad Eucalypts and reflecting the river banks as it flows its 20 kilometre journey to the mighty Shoalhaven River.

Tilled and fertile fields lay in earthen browns and russet reds, while flaxen crops lay in wait to be harvested into bales, shimmering in the afternoon light. The patchwork of fields with their demarcations of neatly planted pines, she oaks and fruit trees criss cross the rolling plains and hills, rolling onto the horizon to meet the uplands, the last land formation before the sparkling sea.

All day the south and north bound traffic flows along the black grey ribbon of road, with tall golden poplar trees flanking the shoulders of the road. No sound is heard other than the breeze sighing through the wattle trees and the occasional chatter of Fairy Wrens, that dart and flirt along the fence line.

Timber, stone and copper spires of churches and administrative buildings and a railway station, two storied mansions and turn of the century shops set the mood of Berry, first occupied by the Wodi Wodi people.

Berry, a town founded in the early 1800's is reminiscent of a Victorian era township, complete with a railway line to Sydney, a mill, a dairy, a bakery, a butchery, stables and blacksmith, a constabulary and courthouse, a tannery, a boat builder, a post office, two hotels and a phalanx of well to do homes, all of which have added to the romance of this enchanting south coast scene.

Fully inspired by this wonderful environment and with sketch book in tow, this was a great opportunity to spend a wonderful weekend drawing and painting this merry scene. Great landscape design ideas came to mind for recreating miniature aspects of this glorious scene laid out before me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rainforest Songs

Speckled greens and stocky, catcalling from high in the treetops and flitting down to the mossy patch worked paths, a Cat Bird cries in the beauty of the day.

Liana highways stretch to the canopy of the green skyscrapers of the forest. Orchids and ferns cling and festoon the crooks and out stretched branches of this green tapestry.

Tree Creepers hop vertically, clawing into the fissures of the bark and peck for grubs and insects.

Stop, and the song of the forest is sweet to the ears, a mixture of bird calls, bees buzzing, insect wings fluttering and humming, and a soft zephyr sighing through the trees and rustling the leaves.

Orange fungi decorates an ancient fallen log with a zillion new born baby trees nurtured in the cool, moist, moss carpet.

Black feathered, with a wattle of sun yellow and rich red, a Brush Turkey searches the littered floor, foraging, raking and feeding, scraping back the rich fertile layer, gardening this emerald track of land.

Coolness descends and the air is moist, rain droplets pitter patter throughout the myriad of leaves, dripping mini waterfalls, splatter and plop as  the droplets fall and land in puddles of warm fresh rain.

Rufous rumped, with a fan of wispy grey whirling and twirling, calling to its shy mate, calling the songs of all the birds of the forest, the showy ground dweller runs through a routine of whirring, buzzing, laughing and soothing melodies of small shy birds.

Yellow Robins whistle in the rain, flicking their feathers to dry their backs and wings.

The soft rumbling of the storm passes by, and the light shards gleam through the cathedral like wetness. The days magnificence is heralded by the hoo hoo hooing of an Emerald Dove, running and bobbing along the tracks in the glen, stopping, bobbing, turning, bobbing and hooing, then disappearing behind a garden of rhubarb and lime coloured Rasp ferns.

This is a slice of the magnificence of an Australian Sub Tropical Rain Forest.

We may not be able to experience all of the wonders that are present in these vast worlds but a slice of this can be created in our own backyard. Imagine your very own habitat, native bird attracting, abundant with green an textured leaves, and a canopy to cool the summer heat. Water still and flowing, enticing Dragon Flies, Lady Birds, frogs, tadpoles and pond skipping insects. A happy home in the vastness we call the city.

The song of the forest can be shared by you and your friends in your own garden environment.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Create Your Little Piece of Paradise With Tropical Garden Design

I'm up here in gorgeous Port Douglas in Far North Queensland and it truly is a tropical paradise brimful of fabulous tropical garden design at every turn.

The lush tropical rainforest of the Daintree and the glorious stretch of white sand known as Four Mile Beach form the geographical backdrop to Port Douglas, set between the tropical waters of the old, historic sugar port, rimmed with mangroves and the Coral Sea.

Port Douglas is home to some of Australia's most luxurious residences and lush tropical garden design, many designed around airy pavilion style architecture. Just take a walk down any street and there is an abundance of colourful, tropical plant life spilling out along public footpaths, balconies and private gardens.

The resort gardens are fabulous, combining lush and colourful interplays of foliage and flowers. Beautifully manicured, the gardens give off heady perfumes of frangipani, ginger, gardenia, jasmine and michelia. The street planting and residential gardens add to the scene and combined with generous swathes of lush green grass create a garden paradise.

The essence of tropical garden design is the combination of fragrant flowers and lush, colourful, sensuous foliage, punctuated by the bold trunks and sculptural leaves of the myriad palm varieties. Tall palms and rainforest trees form a cool canopy for an understorey of plants such as ferns, colourful crotons, cordylines, gingers, jasmine and rohea.

With its mild sub tropical climate Sydney gardens are well suited to tropical garden design and with some clever planting design can work well with our water restrictions. Grouping plants with different water requirements is a clever way to reduce water usage and creating a micro climate with canopy planting will help keep the shaded understorey moist if well mulched.

Timber decking and stepped timber platforms in combination with natural stone paving and pebbles form a perfect structural backdrop to tropical garden design and are particularly suited to pool settings. Finishing touches include large feature garden pots, low water bowls with water plants and fish and garden sculpture. A large carved stone sculpture in combination with a water bowl, set amidst lush foliage can look particularly stunning.

Garden lighting creates the drama at night and the perfect backdrop for outdoor entertaining on warm balmy Sydney night.