Beauty Profaned II
by Quentin Cockburn
Pat and Owen live at the old Golf Links Estate in Croydon, in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs. It’s in the foothills of the Dandenong’s. They moved there in the 1940’s to indulge their passion, the cultivation of plants and the establishment of a garden, their own, and with it their fascination for Rhododendrons. When they moved there, they were amongst kindred spirits. They all loved gardening, they were consumed by the endless possibilities, artistic, floristic and atavistic and it gave them profound pleasure.
There were no curbs and channelling, no footpaths. The blue hills of the Dandenong Ranges were clearly visible over the adjacent golf course, and the residents chose as ‘enshrined principle’ to keep the established gum trees. Within the mosaic of natives they inserted the deciduous and exotic, to temper the grey greens with a vivid contrast of seasonal colour. In this they were enjoined by my father.
As boys their knowledge of plants and natural history had been encouraged by their school’s proximity to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. There under the tutelage of the then Director of the herbarium, the late J.H.Willis, they became captivated by the mystery to be found in living things. (Credit must also be given to Edna Walling as progenitor, for inspiring this new adventure in the spirit of the Australian Landscape Movement.)
Patrick, a classicist, called his garden Trebizond, after the Byzantine Black Sea port city, the juncture in ancient history between the East and the West. Trebizond, the garden, blended Hornbeam, with Beech, Aleppo Pine with Stone Pine, and between it all in a profusion of cascading garden beds, and greenery he built an Amphitheater. To one side a concrete cast, the Discopolous, rescued from the wrecker, stood a poignant reminder of deep cultural linkages.
Patrick’s brother, Owen, (the geologist) concentrated on developing plants within the fossil record, Gingkoes, the Metasequoia, the Davidea, Aurucarias, and within it an array of Liquidamba, Rhododendrons, and Camellias. Their design was intuitive, no crunchy gravel and anesthetized hedges, it grew as one in a profusion of umbrageous ecstasy, a wonder to behold, and for children a delight to explore and get lost in.
Recently, the Golf Course itself was sold off for a housing subdivision. All that gardenesque stuff would be ‘corrected’ via the certainty of ‘cutting edge’ design. From Council there were promises made and planning amendments discussed to ensure that the New Links development, an aggregation of housing in very small lots, would not impact upon Walling’s’ more gardenesque neighbourhood. The integrity of her vision would remain.
Then Owen died, his house, like Mawson’s Hut, established itself as a relic frozen in time. It was purchased by a good samaritan, who promised to retain the garden (which Owen had called Rissingholm). So with Trebizond, (they shared multiple blocks) the unity and spirit of the garden would prevail.
Then on a Sunday morning, the neighbours were awoken to the sound of a bulldozer, chainsaws, and men. Organising a swift vigil the neighbours were told to ‘get off private property’! Patrick watched powerless as his brothers lifework was reduced to a clayey hardstand. That afternoon a chain mesh fence was erected, the site quarantined, the space, of garden, house and steps an empty void.
The Council may look into it, Patrick told me though tears. He handed me a note, which in typical Council speak declared, ‘pursuant to vehicle safety etc.etc . . . the dangerous verges on the road must be cleared for public safety to accommodate increased vehicle usage as a consequence of the expanded Golf Links Estate.
Patrick looked up, “You see,” he said, indicating the row of Stone Pines above the amphitheater, “All this is to go, no one can stop it.” At the bottom of the letter, the typeface proclaimed, ‘Chief Executive Officer’. A promise had been broken, faith betrayed, and a legacy bequeathed by a leader amongst us trampled.