Janna SchreierThe bush gets under your skin

Sydney Harbour heads, Balmoral Beach and Sydney Harbour National Park. These were all part of my wondrous daily walk for three very spoilt years. But at the beginning of March, Paul and I relocated to London. Gosh. Arriving to snow didn’t help matters, especially as a move had never been part of our game plan. It was just one of those opportunities that pops up from nowhere and before you know it you are off.

The scenic Balmoral Beach, Mosman. Photo Janna Schreier

The scenic Balmoral Beach, Mosman. Photo Janna Schreier

I did feel excited about being close to Europe, about all those English gardens and even projects such as New York’s High Line suddenly feeling within reach. But I genuinely felt fear. Fear of leaving behind my beloved Australia and fear of that terribly cold, grey weather I had hated and not missed one bit over the previous eight years.

As I sit here, two months on, I’m pleasantly surprised by how this change feels. I can’t wait to visit Sydney: to see friends, take a ferry out on the harbour and immerse myself in the spectacle of its natural beauty once more. But I wouldn’t say I’m missing Sydney, per se.

The city feels a world away in London’s Hyde Park. Photo: Janna Schreier

The city feels a world away in London’s Hyde Park. Photo: Janna Schreier

My morning walk now follows the Serpentine, in London’s Hyde Park. Catching a glimpse of the London Eye, rotating above the tree tops, reminds me of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, which similarly appears from nowhere when you’re least expecting it. And 625 acres of parkland more than fills my ‘green’ needs, which are accentuated in big, bad cities.

I’m struck by how different the parkland is here. It’s just so green; an entirely different green to the one of Australian landscapes. It’s not better or worse, just different, and quite exciting for it. I love exploring the naturalistic plantscapes and seeing the formal gardens. I love feeling small under the embracing, majestic trees and experiencing the buzz of human activity: children feeding ducks and paddle-boating-students laughing.

But I do feel a strong pull from Australia. A yearning inside me that will never go away. One that tells me I will definitely be back to live there some day. But it’s not for the Sydney harbour or for Balmoral Beach. What I’m missing, already, is the Australian bush. That vast expanse of untouched landscape. The soft foliage colours, deep red soils and the bright, beating sun from a dazzlingly blue sky.

Simpson’s Gap, just outside Alice Springs (you’ll have to imagine the dazzlingly blue sky; it was there honest!). Photo: Janna Schreier

Simpson’s Gap, just outside Alice Springs (you’ll have to imagine the dazzlingly blue sky; it was there honest!). Photo: Janna Schreier

I didn’t even experience it that often, not the bush proper. But being far away from it feels wrong, somehow. It’s almost like an anxiety, knowing that I can’t just get there, should I ‘need’ to. The best way I can describe it is that the bush has ‘got under my skin’. It is there, inside my head, a persistent and compelling drawcard.

I guess cities are cities the world over, to a certain extent. And whilst London is an amazing city and I’m very excited about the opportunities it brings, it’s never built-up areas that really capture my heart. And although I love the English countryside, I never missed it whilst we were away, as I do the Australian bush, so surprisingly soon after we left.

I haven’t done much garden visiting so far – it’s a somewhat seasonal activity over here – but already I can see that my tastes are changing. It has cemented a thought that has developed over the years, that gardens, in any country, should reflect the natural landscape around them. Even in cities, they can be connected to the original natural space.

An overflowingly autumnal Great Dixter, Kent. Photo: Janna Schreier

An overflowingly autumnal Great Dixter, Kent. Photo: Janna Schreier

So whilst I’m excited to plan trips to the very English Sissinghurst Castle gardens and the eccentric Great Dixter, a part of me still remains over in Australia. And when I daydream of my second ‘homeland’, there is one vision that just keeps coming back to me, again and again.

That vision is of Boat’s End garden in South Australia. Despite it having a majority of exotic species, it just epitomises Australia for me. It celebrates all that makes Australia ‘Australia’: the unique colours of its landscape, the forms of its gum trees and small-leaved shrubs, the rustic materials so synonymous with country Australia. It doesn’t try to be anything different, it doesn’t fight the drought or strong sun. Instead, it embraces all that we love about the country and accentuates its strengths, in the process delivering something that looks natural and beautiful and effortless, calming and serene, a thriving ecologic community.

The colour of Echium seed heads precisely connect with the trees beyond, at Boat’s End garden, South Australia. Photo: Janna Schreier

The colour of Echium seed heads precisely connect with the trees beyond, at Boat’s End garden, South Australia. Photo: Janna Schreier

So whilst I’ll be designing with an emerald green plant palette for the next few years, it is the muted reds, golds, greys and greens that I will be dreaming of in Australia; exactly as I saw at this beautifully curated South Australian garden.

I’d highly encourage you to visit* Boat’s End garden for yourself. Wherever you are from, it’s impossible not to feel the incredible fit that this garden has with its place in the world. It sits so extraordinarily comfortably in its landscape. And to me, there’s probably no more important element in the practice of garden design.

In the meantime, Sarah, thank you for inspiring me and giving me such beautiful memories of your breathtaking garden. I will definitely be back for another visit. I’m not sure exactly when, but I imagine it might be just one too many days of grey, English skies that sees me logging on to qantas.com.au…

Colours and forms are distinctly Australian in nature at Boat’s End garden. Photo: Janna Schreier

Colours and forms are distinctly Australian in nature at Boat’s End garden. Photo: Janna Schreier

 

[* Boat’s End garden is next open on 17-18 September 2016 as part of the South Australian Open Garden Scheme. See if you can get there!]

 

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Janna Schreier

About Janna Schreier

Garden designer, writer, and blogger, Janna has designed and created hundreds of gardens across the three countries she has called home—the UK, Australia and Malaysia. Currently based in London, she loves to travel and explore gardens all over the world. Her passion is to capture beautiful garden images wherever she goes and evaluate what it is, precisely, that makes each garden work so well. She uses this knowledge in designs for her clients and in her aim to enthuse all whose paths she crosses on the wonderful, vast and diverse merits of gardening. You can find Janna’s blog at Janna Schreier

4 thoughts on “The bush gets under your skin

  1. Suzanne on said:

    Hi Janna. So good to hear you are settling into your new home. However I’m very pleased that the ‘bush’ has got under your skin. It is firmly lodged under mine! It holds a magic and mystique that is hard to explain although you make a good attempt to do so.
    I love to see images of gardens of all kinds in all countries and am impressed by the plantmanship, design and colour pallets but rarely want to imulate them. I want my garden to sit comfortably under that fiercely bright light, HOT sun and brilliant blue sky; to be a haven for local wildlife and to be recogniseably Australian. And of course I love the plethora of uniquely Australian plants, many of which are still to be ‘tamed’ for the garden.
    I’m looking forward to your views of NYs High Line and other exciting innovations such as London’s Garden Bridge…and are your tastes really changing or just readjusting to your new environment?

    • I think it’s hugely exciting to think about how Australian garden design will evolve over the next decade, with more and more cultivars of native species coming on to the market. I’m quite sure the negative connotations they have will slowly but surely change. It’s just a little frustrating for me that I’m not there in the middle of it all. But yes, I’m sure you are right, my tastes as such aren’t changing, just my notion of what looks best in my changing environment.

  2. Michael McCoy on said:

    Yes, but how romantic to be a kind of latter-day Karen Blixen, spending all the remainder of her life in Denmark, and pining for her beloved Africa…

    • Gosh, that is a romantic thought. (After two months) I hadn’t thought of it like that. My intention is definitely to do less pining for and more being in Australia. I’ve already been looking up bush walks for next summer. Now to save up those pennies.

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