What is it about gardens and flowers that are so important?

Our need to be in a garden or something like it is such a basic human need that some of us will do almost anything to ensure that we are surrounded by beautiful growing plants. Flowers (and by association) almost always feature at important life events such as births, marriages and deaths. Flowers also feature in days like Valentines day, ANZAC day and many others. Posters and paintings sometimes will do indoors. Dramatic landscapes featuring plants adorn just about every calendar yet again linking us to that perfect garden.

I can remember walking into a valley in Tasmania literally crammed with Dicksonia antarctica or soft tree fern. These were monsters. They had trunks that you could barely get your arms around (and no, I’m not normally a ‘tree hugger’, as much as I like them). Let’s set the scene. Tree ferns normally need shade to grow. These ferns were the shade. Anyway, my point is that to be in awe of such an incredible ‘garden’ stays with you for life.

Children naturally seem to know what to do in a garden. They play. They eat whatever is ripe or nearly ripe. The adult mantra ‘go outside and play’ is really a plea to the child to go and enjoy the best possible place on earth.

Gardens, gardening and the flowers and fruit that goes with them is simply a part of us. Ecotourism must surely be simply an adult ‘go outside and play’.

Where does all that leave us with a 250mm rainfall zone, long term water restrictions and some of the worst soils on earth? It’s a massive challenge if you want to grow plants that would really rather be growing somewhere else a long way away, such as Nepal or New Zealand. We have to fiddle with the soil and check the calendar and clock to see when we can water next, just to keep them alive, then still be disappointed during the next heat wave.

Or you could use plants that will thrive in our soils, on our natural rainfall (or close to it) without continuous effort to get a below average result. Australia has a huge flora to choose from and much of it is quite happy to be grown in whatever way you choose. Be it a formal garden with clipped hedges, a garden with a bountiful supply of cut flowers or a forest for shelter, be assured that there will be hardy dry land Australian plants to do the job.

Then it is simply a matter of going outside and playing in your own “garden of Eden”.

This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © June 11, 2009.