THE NEW AUSTRALIAN GARDEN: Landscapes for Living by Michael Bates


Reviewed by Pauline Seath


Having moved in to a house with a large garden and backyard after many years of apartment-dwelling, I was feeling excited at the prospect of giving the rather ordinary existing yard a makeover. Totally “at sea” regarding design, I headed for the local bookshop hoping to find some inspirational gardening books. One thing I was certain of, however, I wanted something modern.

The New Australian Garden: Landscapes for Living immediately caught my attention.

I began to flick through the pages delighted by the colourful creative designs, occasionally pausing to read a sentence or two. It didn’t take long to decide. Just the kind of book I hoped I’d find.

It is an insider’s account of the journey to design, construct and plant eighteen landmark gardens that represent new movements in Australian landscape design.

The first couple of pages feature “Defining the new Australian Garden.”  Author Michael Bates says Australians have developed a taste for outdoor living and are taking the humble barbecue area and transforming it into so much more. He states, “Australia’s obsession with property has driven our business powerfully and the expectation of the sort of garden that is desirable is an ever changing feast.”

Each of the gardens is aptly named for its unique purpose. For example “An Entertainer’s Garden” focuses as it states, on a balancing act between enclosure and exposure. Or “Green Escape”, a haven in the heart of the city.

The gardens all include a plan and a plant list. I was particularly impressed by the inclusion of the generic name beside the botanical name of each plant on the list. Australians are a lazy lot and if a ‘near-enough’ name is good enough, they will not learn the exact title. With this book there is no excuse for laziness.

The book provides all the information needed for the relevant tasks. There is integrating colours and textures, street appeal if the garden happens to front the house, managing existing views, adding unusual items when decorating etc etc. There are many different people involved when creating a garden, such as landscape architects, designers, nurserymen, and varied other tradesmen depending on what is needed for each design.

Michael’s career spans 30 years. He began as a young nursery apprentice and completed a degree in horticulture.  For the past 20 years he has owned a successful landscape company which has created over 1000 gardens.

Most companies only offer set designs to clients whereas Michael offers a flexible approach allowing the client the privilege of making the final choices .

His mantra is, “It’s the client’s garden and I want to give them what they want. When I am finished I can go home to my own garden and do whatever I want”. Michael states that he sees himself as a facilitator, someone who brings it all together.

Michael is passionate indeed when it comes to gardens and design. He says, “My commitment to collaboration has served me well. It never ceases to amaze me how a beautifully crafted garden can offer so much pleasure”

The New Australian Garden not only delighted me but also provided ideas and valuable information. It is a book that provides the reader whose interest is design with a means of appreciating a thing of beauty. Those who enjoy gardens will find this book, a superb choice.

THE NEW AUSTRALIAN GARDEN: Landscapes for Living


By Michael Bates

Murdoch Books

IBSN   978 1 74336 810 7 Australia

$ 69.95; 296pp


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