Dr Greg Johnson ‘Quill and Spade: Pioneer garden writing in Australia 1788-1888.’

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Thursday, 8 September 2016 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Garden making wasn’t easy for the women and men who settled in Australia between 1788 and 1888.

In addition to upside-down seasons, the colonists faced droughts, floods and fires, with the challenges in garden making even greater west of the Great Divide, where the summers were hotter, and the winters were freezing!

Initially, the pioneers made do with the knowledge and practical skills they brought with them. Experience and plant lore garnered from indigenous Australians were soon added, while the first gleanings on gardening from Australian newspapers and almanacs came later.

The more literate members of the community sought books and journals from overseas. They also joined agricultural and horticultural societies, and from the 1830s onwards, gardening books and nursery catalogues written and published in Australia began to circulate.

Starting with the influence of Humphry Repton, and ending with the colonial botanists and botanic gardens of the 1880s, the lecture will explore the publications and writers who instructed and inspired the pastoralists, the townfolk, the gold-rush boomers, and the would-be immigrants back home, to lay the foundations of garden history in pre-Federation Australia.

Greg’s presentation is adapted from the Friends of the National Library of Australia and Australian Garden History Society joint lecture of 2014. It will consider the sources of gardening advice and information used by the early colonists and the writers and their publications.

A Queenslander, Dr Greg Johnson has lived in Aranda, Canberra, for the last 20 years. Until 2006 with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and more recently as a consultant, he has helped coordinate research between Australian and developing country scientists. Greg’s research career has been in plant pathology –in Australia- and collaborative research under Australia’s foreign aid program. His special expertise is in tropical fruit diseases.

In parallel with his professional interests, Greg, has collected 19th century to pre 1960 Australian gardening books for over 30 years. He is a member of the Australian Garden History Society, and his interests in garden history and early gardening books stem from his research career and a love of gardening.

Greg’s ancestry is British, German and Chinese. He is the descendent of a Chinese gardener and fruit seller who came to Queensland as an indentured labourer before the gold rushes and married a Scotswoman in Maryborough, Queensland in 1863. When he lived in Queensland, was also Your Garden magazine’s correspondent for the sub-tropics from 1989-1995.