Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Contemporary Gardens of New Zealand

Contemporary Gardens of New Zealand
Carol Bucknell and Sally Tagg
Penguin Group
RRP $65.00

Reviewed by Dawn Forbes

This is the second book in which garden designer and writer Carol Bucknell and garden photographer and artist Sally Tagg have collaborated.  Both are well experienced in their respective fields as this large format, soft-covered book confirms.

In her introduction, the author says she was asked by more than one designer to define the word ‘contemporary’ and that, for her, it best  describes the gardens she has chosen as ‘connected to the present’.  But that is not to suggest that these are all new gardens because as every plant watcher knows, it can take many years for a garden to mature and become anything like the envisaged plan.

There is every type of garden here, from courtyard and urban balcony to suburban, from coastal to vast country gardens and from demanding to peaceful.   
The large ones are spectacular in size and design because they have the luxury of space and the smaller ones display the skill of space management. The interaction between landscape architect/designer and the owner is interesting to read as both sides work towards the compromise of expectation and delivery while always accommodating the connection between the house and the garden. 

My  favourite is a restored wetland in Matakana developed entirely by the owners who wanted to create a “sculptural habitat with large artworks made from natural materials on the site” – and they have.  Two examples of their clever use of these  materials are large trunks of fallen pines turned into prone works of art and sawn timber slabs of varying heights curving around the base of several trees.
You can smell the freshness and sense the peace.

Readers will find the list of key plants used at the end of each chapter helpful, and that would have been the place too to list the wonderful sculptures and garden art used extensively in so many of the gardens.  But they are not listed anywhere in the book.  The owners of one featured garden are “passionate art collectors who wanted to display many pieces outside” and we see the garden created around them to “ensure the artworks are seen as part of the landscape” but we are not told what the pieces are or by whom.  A couple get a mention in the text but are not identified in the garden.

The omission is disappointing, and surprising too because Sally Tagg (the photographer) is also a respected artist of botanically themed artworks, one of which was included in the recent NZ Sculpture OnShore exhibition on Auckland’s North Shore….but we don’t know if she has any of her work included here. 

Dawn Forbes is an Auckland reader and regular reviewer of gardening books on Beattie's Book Blog.

No comments: