Historic Gardens of Perth: a handsome first

John Viska & Lisa Williams (eds), Historic Gardens of Perth: European settlement to Modernism, Scott Print, Perth, 2023, reviewed by Pamela Statham Drew.

This handsome book of 202 pages is the first to tell the story of Perth’s gardens from colonisation to the present. It has its origins in two garden history exhibitions: the first Historic Gardens of Perth in 2011 and the second Historic Gardens of Perth – Western Suburbs in 2018. The latter was held at the Cottesloe Civic Centre, itself a historic garden dating from the early 1900s. Unlike previous garden histories that have focussed on the horticultural aspects of gardens, this versatile publication takes a broader approach encompassing pleasure as well as productive gardens and includes the influence of personalities and societies on garden evolution.

In a series of chronological garden ‘episodes’, the reader is treated to intriguing glimpses of Perth’s past – including the pines at Cottesloe, Queens Gardens, Hyde Park, Mount Street and Gallop House. Early nurseries are introduced, including their influence on garden design and plant choice. The latter, it is suggested, often featured ‘disabled plants,’ as gardeners are susceptible to differences in plants, and these are usually variations or mutations of wild plants!

Included is a comprehensive index and list of selected further reading. However the great strength of this publication is its extensive use of excellent photographs, in both black-and-white and colour. These are detailed in two pages of references. Much of the textual analysis focuses on the early photographs, an immense pleasure for garden historians. The book presents well, and will not disappoint readers.

This review first appeared in History West, January-February 2024, and is reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society