Gondwana dreaming

A new design: Spatial dramatist William Martin with a selection of the plants used in the Civic Centre’s new garden development.

WILLIAM Martin can’t help but ponder on the thoughts of Australia’s first settlers when they hit its untamed shores.
In a time when people spent their entire lives within 10 miles of their parish church, few would have even seen the ocean much less have crossed it.
“To hit Australia’s shores with such alien looking trees and plants, the change was often too severe for them to grasp,” the spatial dramatist said.
“They recoiled from the landscape viewing it as a ‘wilderness’ and of being ‘untamed’.
“I wanted to capture some of that wildness… that wonder of being in a type of Gondwana land.”
Mr Martin is nearing the final stages of planting out the Cornagamite Shire’s new garden, which caps off a $2.5 million office redevelopment.
“In considering the genius of the space, the clock tower and courthouse obviously take centre stage,” he said.
“But I’ve also considered the flat plains to the north of the shire, the “lovely feminine outlines” of the volcanoes and the rolling valleys and ocean to the south.
“All those elements have been at play in de-
veloping the basic inspiration for the garden.”
The award winning gardener, best known locally for his Wigandia garden on the slopes of Mount Noorat, then adopted an approach of ‘exuberant minimalism’.
“Instead of choosing 100 different plants to use in the garden, I’ve chosen say 10 and increased their numbers tenfold,” he said.
“It’s an eclectic mix, but I think it works beautifully.
“I can’t wait to see it all in 12 months time, or even six months.”
Cycads provide the garden’s central architecture and blend with billowing grasses (purposefully sterile to relieve any farmer concerns), berberis shrubs, clivias and yuccas.
“I’ve avoided woody plants as I think Camperdown is well serviced for those,” Mr Martin said.
“Camperdown also has enough lawned areas and lush spaces, so I’ve opted for a scoria landscape, which I must admit, has attracted a lot of comment.
“The scoria is a perfect backdrop against the polychrome of the courthouse bricks and also works well with the rendered offices and the yellow brick of the McNicol Street building.
“It’s very fitting, since mounts Leura and Sugarloaf are full of scoria and Camperdown itself is built on the stuff.”
Mr Martin said it wasn’t until the late 1900s that gardeners and horticulturists started to appreciate Australian plants, especially palms, and include them in their designs.
“That’s when all the major gardens were established, such as the likes of Guilfoyle’s,” he said.
“But since then it’s been like a 100 year slumber and very little has happened, so I think it’s fitting to rethink our approach and take a new tack.
“People should never be afraid when they’re creating a garden – they should grasp their concept and run with it.
“When it comes to creating a garden you have to be bold, very bold.”

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