Books to inform and inspire you

Michael Archer and Bob Beale (2004) Going Native: Living in the Australian Environment
"Ruined soils . . . invading weeds . . . vanishing species. Yet most of the remedies are right under our noses, in Australia's unique plants and animals. Going Native is a blueprint for change, a dynamic vision that calls for a revolution in thinking about our relationship with this amazing continent."

David Banks (2004) Orchids: Cultivation, Propagation and Varieties
Written by an Australian for Australian conditions, and illustrated with superb photographs on nearly every page, Orchids provides detailed information on the care and cultivation of around 400 orchids, including a selection of the best and most beautiful of the 700 orchids indigenous to Australia.

Doug Benson and Jocelyn Howell (1990) Taken for Granted: The Bushland of Sydney and its Suburbs
Describes the steady decline of Sydney’s landscape since 1788, the main plant species that once thrived here and those that have survived. Every local government area in the Sydney metropolitan region is covered, with accounts of the flora (once) found there. This is a fascinating and disturbing book, and useful to Sydneysiders planning an indigenous garden. The same authors’ Sydney’s Bushland: More than Meets the Eye (2000), is also well worth reading.

Thomas Berry (1988) The Dream of the Earth
Provocative essays by an American eco-theologian/monk on creative energy, technology, economics, education, spirituality, patriarchy, bioregionalism and peace. The leading essay The Dream of the Earth: Our Way into the Future is about "the earth itself and its inherent powers in bringing forth this marvellous display of beauty in such unending profusion, a display so overwhelming to human consciousness that we might very well speak of it as being dreamed into existence."

John Brookes (1969) Room Outside: A New Approach to Garden Design
When it was first published  – the same year we bought a derelict 18th century house on a weed-infested site in Sussex UK –  this original, practical book instantly established itself as my garden design bible. Australian readers may skip the plant lists yet find inspiration in the design concepts, illustrated with photographs and drawings on almost every page. At Melbourne’s ‘Gardens for Tomorrow’ conference in 1994, the internationally acclaimed English designer provoked a predictably mixed response when he urged his audience to "Start looking at your native forms and your native shapes. . . . . . Too many imported exotics are being used. You can make the new Australian garden. . . . . .Go to it!"

Burnum Burnum (1988) Burnum Burnum’s Aboriginal Australia: A Traveller’s Guide
The beauty of the Australian landscape and the significance of its features seen through Aboriginal eyes. Illustrated with 300 outstanding colour photographs and 150 monochrome archival photographs, many never previously published.

Bushland Friendly Nursery Scheme (2005)  Environmental Weeds and Native Alternatives: A guide to identification, control and replacement
A practical booklet, that includes descriptions and photos of over 80 invasive garden plants, and suggested native alternatives. Although produced for the NSW North coast from Tweed to Taree, almost all species identified as invasive, also occur throughout coastal NSW, and many also occur elsewhere in Australia. Available, free, from participating councils, from Tweed to Greater Taree.
Environmental Weeds and Native Alternatives, supplants Grow Me Instead: A guide for gardeners in the Greater Sydney district, published by Nursery & Garden Industry NSW & ACT. Grow Me Instead provides descriptions and photos of only 32 invasive species and suggested alternatives, a mix of exotics (including potential invasives) and native to Australia.

Vic Cherikoff and Jennifer Isaacs (1991)  The Bush Food Handbook: How to Gather, Grow, Process and Cook Australian Wild Foods
The authors guide the reader through each stage, from collection and farming, to city foraging, garden planning, recipes, cooking techniques and regional listings of food species. They recommend cultivation, rather than harvesting from the bush that contributes to the further decline of Australia’s environment.
This superb book, illustrated with many sensitive colour photographs and drawings, is dedicated to the Aborigines “whose traditional lifestyles maintained and respected the beauty and resources of the Australian bush.” Out of print, though well worth a search for a second-hand copy. For related books on bush foods, visit

Ian Chivers and Kath Raulings (2009)  Australian Native Grasses: a manual for sowing, growing & using them
Australian Native Grasses describes selected native grasses and their many benefits as eco-friendly garden ornamentals and alternatives to conventional lawns. The authors also give detailed instructions on propagation and after-care. An outstanding, profusely illustrated book that fills a long-felt need for practical information for the eco-aware landscape professional and home gardener alike. Available online at

Ross Clark (2003) Specifying Trees: A guide to assessment of tree quality
Identifies the most important measurable characteristics of container-grown nursery trees and shows you how to select a high quality product with confidence.

Michael Cremo and Mukunda Goswami (1995) Divine Nature: A Spiritual Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
"Divine Nature reminds us that we must learn again to live within the laws of nature . . . aware and grateful that we are at the mercy of sacred forces larger than ourselves."

Sylvia Crowe (1958) Garden Design
Sylvia Crowe, who died in 1997 aged 95, was a giant among twentieth century landscape architects. In her classic Garden Design, she reviews the history of gardens and examines the materials of design, specialised gardens and the principles of design: "Perhaps the greatest principle and the one most lacking in the average garden today is a sense of unity . . . . . When we say that a landscape has been spoilt we mean that it has lost this unity". Out of print, though worth a search for the section on design principles alone.

Peter Cundall (2001) Pete’s Mailbag: Original Tips and Tricks from Australian Gardeners
A slender volume, "guaranteed to make everyday gardening easier."

Helen Cushing (2005) Beyond Organics: Gardening for the Future
Before I’d finished reading the three page Introduction, I began to sense in horticulturist, conservationist and gardener Helen Cushing, a kindred spirit; and in Beyond Organics: Gardening for the Future, a book with something of vital importance to say. To the gardener dissatisfied with the superficiality of garden design and indifference to the environment of gardening magazines and TV makeover shows, Beyond Organics comes as a breath of fresh air, an eloquent How To guide to transforming the average garden into a tranquil eco paradise and wildlife oasis.
The author exposes some unpalatable truths about everyday gardening practices, and examines eco-friendly alternatives and their many advantages.
This unusual book is at once a closely reasoned treatise and a passionate manifesto, a book that packs a wealth of information on biodiversity, conservation, soil and plant selection – interwoven with personal recollections –  into one slender volume. Beyond Organics invites remedial action, and will appeal to a new breed of gardeners and garden designers who seek to unite aesthetics and ecology, in harmony with the natural environment.
One major defect undermines the book’s central message of ecological integrity: The description of Nursery & Garden Industry Australia’s Flora for Fauna web site as "an incredible resource for plant selection", is a huge misconception that will raise eyebrows among conservationists and ecologists.
A revised edition of Beyond Organics that omits reference to this travesty of the original UK Flora for Fauna, will be a welcome source of lasting inspiration to gardeners across Australia.

Gretchen C. Daily and Katherine Ellison (2002)  The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable
One of the world's leading ecologists, Professor Gretchen Daily, in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Katherine Ellison, envisions a 'new economy' that recognises the economic value of natural systems and the potential profits in protecting them.
Daily and Ellison describe the dynamic interplay of science, economics, business, and politics that is involved in establishing these new approaches and examine what is needed to create successful models and lasting institutions for conservation.
Put together an outstanding scientist, an outstanding writer and an outstanding idea made refreshingly compelling: the result is a lively and outstanding book. Daily and Ellison show us why conservation pays.
Jared Diamond, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies

Philip Drew (1999) Touch this Earth Lightly: Glenn Murcutt in His Own Words
Based on forty hours of interviews with the internationally renowned Australian architect. "When we fail to see ourselves belonging to (the landscape) we become unreal. It is so much easier to go ahead and destroy it all . . . . . as far as I am concerned it is our duty to act as custodians for one of the most remarkable landscapes."

Alan Fairley and Philip Moore (2001, 2nd edition) Native Plants of the Sydney District: An Identification Guide
An excellent guide to the flora of the NSW central coastal region, between Newcastle and Nowra and east of the Great Dividing Range, illustrated with colour photographs of about 1500 species.

Gordon and Gwen Ford (1999) The Natural Australian Garden
In the early ‘90s, Gordon and Gwen invited me to visit them at their mud brick house and natural garden at Eltham in Victoria. They were pioneers and visionaries way ahead of their time, and an inspiration for our own mud brick house, design studio, garden and wetlands at Pacific Palms in New South Wales. This beautiful book, replete with many sensitive photographs, is sure to remain a rich source of inspiration to generations of gardeners and garden designers to come. "A well-designed bush garden is timeless – a garden for today and a garden for tomorrow, a garden with a sense of region, a sense of place."

Gould League (1997) The Nestbox Book
Nestboxes provide accommodation for birds and other wildlife whose natural homes in tree hollows have been destroyed. This little book shows you how to make boxes suited to a variety of wildlife, including native birds that help keep your garden clear of insect pests.

Kevin Handreck (1993) Gardening Down Under
What goes on, not only ‘down under’ in Australia but also ‘down under’ beneath the soil surface. A practical, easily understood guide to a vital, often neglected subject, by a leading CSIRO soil scientist.

Kevin Handreck (2008)  Good Gardens with Less Water
Packed with useful information, including new research findings, on how to improve soil structure to maximise water retention, calculate garden watering needs, check water quality, harvest rainwater, choose a lawn grass suited to local growing conditions and select drought tolerant plants.
As Australia is the world’s driest continent, it should come as no surprise that most of the recommended drought tolerant species are native to Australia. Recommendations for cacti and exotic succulents aside, this represents a welcome departure from the usual recommendations in gardening magazines and TV makeover shows, for drought tolerant exotics.
A timely book that offers practical solutions to gardeners and garden designers interested in sustainable gardens.

Michael Hough (1992) Out of Place: Restoring Identity to the Regional Landscape
Why do modern cities, suburbs, and industrial and farming landscapes all tend to look alike despite their regional settings? In this provocative, richly illustrated book, Professor of Landscape Architecture Michael Hough, demonstrates that the monotony of the modern landscape is a reflection of society's indifference to the biological diversity inherent in ecological systems.

Michael Hough (1995) Cities and Natural Process
Working with nature in the design of our cities to enhance the quality of life within them. In his keynote address to the Greening Australia Conference in Fremantle, a year before this book was published, the outspoken professor summarised the main impediment to doing so: "The exotic vegetation that replaces indigenous plant communities in urbanising regions disassociates us from the rhythms and diversity of the native landscape and a sense of the place; and we are the poorer because of it."

Terry Inkson, Mike Smith and Isabelle Strachan (2007, revised 2008) Garden Escapees and Other Weeds of Bushland and Reserves: A responsible gardening guide
This comprehensive booklet describes the nature of invasion and provides detailed instructions on controlling the spread of invasive plants. Around 280 invasives are described, with 150 colour photographs to aid identification. Lists of 120 suggested native alternatives are included.
Researched and produced for Great Lakes Council on the New South Wales mid-north coast, almost all species identified as invasive, have invaded bushland throughout coastal New South Wales, and many of these have also become invasive in other States and Territories of Australia.An outstanding, thoroughly researched guide that offers practical solutions to a major ecological problem.Garden Escapees and Other Weeds of Bushland and Reserves supplants Grow Me Instead: A guide for gardeners in the Greater Sydney district, published by Nursery & Garden Industry NSW & ACT. Grow Me Instead provides descriptions and photos of only 32 invasive species and suggested alternatives, a mix of exotics (including potential invasives) and native to Australia.

Tim Low (1999) Feral Future: The Untold Story of Australia’s Exotic Invaders
The shocking facts about Australia’s continued environmental mismanagement and an indictment of the mainstream nursery industry and pet shop trade, as "damaging Australia’s environment more than mining". A clarion call to action.

Tim Low (2001)  The New Nature
Confronts an issue for which the stakes are high. For the mainstream nursery industry, it is their bottom line; for others, the identity of their sacred landscape.
In the words of Aboriginal singer songwriter Archie Roach:
" . . . So bow your head old Eucalypt and Wattle tree
Australia’s bush is losing its identity
While the city parks that they have planned
Look out of place
Because the spirit’s in the land . . ."

('Native Born', from the CD 'Charcoal Lane')

Betty Maloney, Jean Walker and Barbara Mullins (1973) All About Australian Bush Gardens
A classic, illustrated with sensitive photographs and drawings, about the informal approach to native garden design, Sydney style.

Bill Molyneux (1980) Grow Native: Creating an Australian Bush Garden
The book that stirred my interest in the Australian landscape and ultimately led to a change of career, this persuasive yet unassuming little gem is no longer in print, though well worth a search.

Bill Molyneux and Ross Macdonald (1983) Native Gardens: How to Create an Australian Landscape
Takes up where Grow Native leaves off. An interesting and practical book, fully illustrated with many photographs and diagrams.

Nan and Hugh Nicholson (1985 – 2004) Australian Rainforest Plants Vols 1 - 6
Six volumes of small books by two environmental activists, with full descriptions, excellent colour photographs and cultivation notes of over 250 rainforest plants suitable for the home garden.

Glenn Parsons (2007) The Aesthetics of Nature
The aesthetics of nature is a growing sub-field of contemporary design and architecture. In this brief essay, Glenn Parsons reflects on key issues, including the relationship between art, ethics and nature.

Readers Digest (1988) Complete Book of Australian Birds

Readers Digest (1997) Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife
As a garden designer or garden owner you may wish to learn more about birds and wildlife, particularly those that visit or make their homes in your garden. These comprehensive, beautifully illustrated volumes are both highly recommended.

Harry Recher et al. (1986, 2nd edition) A Natural Legacy: Ecology in Australia
If you'd like to broaden your perspective, you'll find much to interest and enlighten you about the complex ecological processes governing the world’s driest continent.

George Seddon (2005) The Old Country: Australian Landscapes, Plants and People
Before his death in 2007, George Seddon was Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Melbourne and a Senior Research Associate at the University of Western Australia. In this timely book, he explores native and exotic plants in Australian gardens, and the spread of garden escapes into the landscape.
“For thirty years or more, I have been urging people to grow plants in their gardens that come from comparable soils and climates. For thirty years or more, I have been wrong, for these are the plants that are most likely to leap the garden wall.”
The better we understand the delicacy and beauty of our natural environment, Seddon suggests, the more at home we shall feel in Australia, and the less inclined to fill our gardens with exotics.

Diana Snape (2002) The Australian Garden: Designing with Australian Plants
In 1999 Diana collapsed with liver failure, came close to death and survived the ordeal of a liver transplant, to produce this outstanding book; testimony to her grit and total dedication to the Australian landscape.

Ellis Stones (1971) Australian Garden Design
What’s in a name? If stonework interests you, Stones was a master in garden design with natural stone, as this book’s many fine photographs vividly illustrate.

Paul Thompson (1991) Water in Your Garden
Written by a leading garden designer and builder of Australian gardens, an excellent little book for those planning a garden pond, waterfall or fountain.

Paul Thompson (2002) Australian Planting Design
An inspirational book, with a strikingly beautiful cover, about developing "an urban landscape that belongs to the land, and garden designs that are more suitable to the environment of tomorrow."

Paul Urquhart (1999) The New Native Garden: Designing with Australian Plants
Interesting text with a strong emphasis on design, illustrated with Leigh Clapp’s excellent photographs.

Asa Wahlquist (2008)  Thirsty Country: Options for Australia
Australia is the the world’s driest continent and current climate change projections suggest that it is likely to become even more so.
This thoroughly researched guide is packed with useful information for gardeners, horticulturists, landscape designers and land managers, on practical ways to reduce water demand in Australia.

Glen Wilson (1975) Landscaping with Australian Plants
Reflections on landscape design by a pioneering Australian designer.

John Wrigley and Murray Fagg (2003, 5th edition) Australian Native Plants: Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation
An excellent guide, illustrated with over 1000 colour photographs. We recommend you give preference to plants indigenous to the region where you live. To attract small endangered birds – in preference to aggressive, territorial birds – and to benefit your environment, avoid the artificial, nursery-bred hybrids (grevilleas in particular), with enlarged flowers and extended flowering.

Many of the above books are obtainable from: Florilegium Books, 65 Derwent Street. Glebe, New South Wales. Telephone 9571 8222

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