‘Mower is less’
The Garden of Ideas: Four Centuries of Australian Style
by Richard Aitken
Miegunyah Press, $64.99 hb, 255 pp, 9780522857504
When Bouvard and Pécuchet suddenly become enamoured of landscape design in Flaubert’s novel of 1881, and decide to remodel their own garden, they are bewildered by the ‘infinity of styles’ that are available to them. After much deliberation and research, they decide to install an Etruscan tomb with an inscription, a Rialto, a Chinese pagoda, a mount, and topiary in the shape of peacocks, stags, pyramids, and armchairs. Despite these ‘improvements’, however, when Bouvard and Pécuchet proudly unveil the garden for the first time at dinner, their guests fail to respond as they had hoped; that is, according to predetermined categories of response, which include the Melancholy or Romantic, the Exotic, the Pensive, the Mysterious, and the Fantastic.