Planting Dreams: Shaping Australian Gardens

To mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the State Library of NSW is staging two fascinating exhibitions that showcase the rich story of gardens and garden‐making in Australia ‐ Planting Dreams: Shaping Australian Gardens and Grand Garden Designs.

Shaping Australian Gardens explores the ideas and influences that have shaped the way we make, use, imagine and enjoy our gardens.

Garden historian and Shaping Australian Gardens curator Richard Aitken trawled through the State Library’s extensive collections and selected 150 rare, beautiful and quirky objects – spanning five centuries – to present the ideas and influences that have shaped the way we make, use, imagine and enjoy our gardens.

“Through the exhibition we trace the benefits of gardens and garden making back to the 15th century, when the medicinal virtues of ‘canapus’ were being extolled in a rare herbal now held in the Library’s collection,” says Richard.

“Gardens enrich us. They touch on the spiritual by offering a sort of mini paradise and reflect the cultural diversity of our population as it grows and changes.”

The exhibition also features a newly commissioned interactive work by artists Lisa Cooper and Benja Harney. Responding to exhibition themes and Library collections, they have created a monumental installation which visitors can contribute to during the exhibition.

Grand Garden Designs features over 70 extraordinary images of the most magnificent contemporary gardens in NSW, captured by Australia’s leading garden photographers.

The Library commissioned architect and writer Howard Tanner to survey large, innovative gardens in NSW that may have influenced 21st century landscape design in Australia. A number of these grand private gardens and public landscapes, created since the 1980s, will be on show in Grand Garden Designs, including a famous Vaucluse estate ‘The Hermitage’, remarkable subtropical and mountain gardens in the north of the State, and a major country garden, ‘Garangula’ at Harden.

“The exhibition highlights recent trends including the beautiful use of meadow planting, the Japanese art of cloud pruning, innovative use of sculpture, mass planting of Australian natives, and the concept of borrowed landscapes,” says Howard Tanner.

Planting Dreams: Shaping Australian Gardens and Grand Garden Designs are free exhibitions at the State Library of NSW from 3 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

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