“Growing Wild” — Australian Style

I am thrilled to have author, mom, and friend Caro Webster as a guest blogger here at TGSG. The drive to reconnect with nature, live simpler lifestyles, and engage children in true unstructured play is taking hold down under. Caro is a strong voice in the movement, and I am grateful she made the time to talk to us about the trends emerging in gardens and backyards in Australia. Enjoy the read! See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Photo by Elise Lockwood

Photo by Elise Lockwood

There’s a quiet revolution going on in the suburban backyards of Australia. Rather than sitting back and admiring our perfectly manicured “outside rooms”, gazing lovingly at our mondo grass or liriope, perfectly coiffed hedges of murraya, buxus or newly acquired rows of trendy agaves, we are choosing to head outside armed with buckets of kitchen scraps, water collected from baths & showers while we attempt to figure out where we should build a chicken coop, locate the veggie patch, compost heap and herb garden.

Suffering a slow death (and not for lack of water) is the passive, over-structured garden. Instead we are rediscovering how much fun it is to actually interact with Mother Nature and the vital lessons she has to impart to us and our children about nourishing ourselves and our environment. Despite our hectic lives, we are taking the time to get down and dirty, and, somewhat surprisingly, we are finding that we love it.

So what’s behind this shift in the suburban landscape? I’d suggest a few things.

Everyday we are bombarded with messages on climate change and the potential impact it will have on our lives. No longer an obscure issue, we now have a nascent understanding of some of the associated issues and their ability to directly affect what we do and how we do it. It unsettles us. Gone are the days when we could drop a coin into a bucket held by a man dressed in a koala suit and feel that we were doing our bit for the environment. “Think global, act local” is once again foremost in our minds, so it comforts us on many levels to get out into our backyards, plant trees, attempt to grow our own veggies and provide a safe, happy and productive environment for our family.

The economy is doing nothing to provide peace of mind. Food, fuel, water, medicines and shelter are all more expensive. And with the global economy continuing to trend downward, the ability to provide the basics for ourselves at reduced cost is very appealing and for many of us, more necessary.

Subconsciously, global terrorism may also be impacting on our lifestyle choices. Terrorism is no longer a remote event, occurring in a far-off country. There is an unspoken fear in many communities that some day soon, something (God forbid) may happen closer to home. So our home becomes haven again; we are bunkering down, cocooning and trying to figure out what we should do to protect ourselves and maintain the peaceful lifestyle Australia affords us. This unease reminds us of the staples of life — we hanker for a return to the “good life” of our childhoods, which was, on the whole, a time spent outside whiling away the day with lots of unstructured play (and not a Nintendo in sight) and very little to worry about except what mum was preparing for dinner. We long to provide this for our own children.

Photo by Katrina Crook

Photo by Katrina Crook

Or maybe it’s none of these. Perhaps we are simply sick to death of gardens which offer nothing but a vacant green room, with little to engage or educate our children and no place for their beautiful imaginations to take hold. Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled with our new-found involvement, and am now longing to hear, once again, the 3:00 a.m. call of the lovelorn rooster and hoping that I will soon find a Choko vine spilling over the back fence.

Guest Blogger Bio: Caro Webster is the mother of two young children, a freelance writer and author of the recently released Small Fry Outdoors – inspiration for being outside with children (ABC Books). She is also President of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Check out Caro and colleague Susie Cameron on Twitter and at the Small Fry website.

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