There is an overgrown garden just outside the tiny village of Laurel Hill, in the Snowy Mountains. Not much is known of the history of this garden, I’ve heard that it used to be a Cobb & Co Hotel in the days of Early Australian Settlement. Whatever buildings once stood there are now long destroyed. Left behind are a pond, a Chestnut tree, Holly, Lindens, and a beautiful Claret Ash. Every time I visit the garden has sunk a little further into ruin. The drought which held that part of the country for the last 5 years nearly finished it off.
The garden was is significant because it belongs (in a small way) to the tradition of Victorian (Era) landscaping. The trees and pond are planted in a way designed to produce a ‘picturesque’ effect. The unknown gardener wanted to look out upon a picturesque English garden. It is quite possible that this gardener had never been anywhere near a genuine English garden (I have no way of knowing). What matters though is that it conforms to a image of what a garden should be like.
This little garden near Tumbarumba is just a very small example of something that can be seen almost everywhere in the closely settled parts of the Australian landscape. It is the shaping of this country to look like another. The early settlers drew upon an ideal which they then sought to realise in the world. In fact, they saw the land, not merely as ‘land’ but as ‘Landscape’ – that is, as the potential subject matter of a painting.
(in contrast, our most common way of referring to land is as ‘environment’ – why? and what does this mean?)
Strangely, the hunt for ‘Landscape’ had been going on in England for even longer than in the Colonies. The great Estates and Parks that came into being over the last two and a half centuries are also the products of a deep desire to shape the land into a Landscape.