We can thank garden designer Edna Walling (1895 – 1973) for the kinds of organic, meandering gardens we know, love (and take for granted) every day.
I have just finished reading The Unusual Life of Edna Walling by Peter Watts, and my entire perspective on gardens has been affected!
Originally influenced by her English heritage, Walling came to love the complexity of Australian flora and incorporated it into her gardens as her career progressed.
The fundamental principles that Walling espoused were: working with the landscape’s natural properties, rather then against them; forming a unified relationship between the house and the garden; using architecture to map out the garden, and then horticulture to ‘fill’ and soften it; and my favourite: create a garden that requires little maintenance.
She was also a true recycler, reusing stones and timbers to create the structural elements of a garden.
Sadly there are few original photos of Walling’s gardens, although thankfully many are heritage-listed and can be visited by the public, such as Bickleigh Vale in Victoria.
I think we’ve gone too far in recent times toward gardens that are geared as patio-entertainment areas: paved area, some turf at the side, and surrounded by neat hedging. Garden extreme make-over shows are part of the problem. Gardens aren’t instant: they are ever-changing and should never, in my opinion, be ‘finished.’
With that in mind, we have recently started an ‘Edna’ in our tiny terrace garden, using old, reclaimed sandstone blocks to erect semi-dry garden walls. Planting is yet to be completed, but already the stones have attracted a multitude of lizards and even a frog or two. We are going to plant an eclectic mix of natives, sedums, climbers & vegetables and see how it evolves…HF.