As far back as I can remember, I have been going to Nanna and my late Poppy’s house to spend some time there. I have had great memories at my grandparent’s house. So what makes their house and garden so special and joyous to be in? Also how can we learn from their house and garden and apply into Urban Design planning principles or just life?
Typically, we meet in the cosy kitchen / dining around the four seater table. Some people lean on the bench or the sink. Once you find a spot you park yourself. Generally, in the kitchen we spend a good couple of hours talking about our lives and the general catch up.
These moments are all enjoyed through a simple roll lunch, a lovely fruit slice and possible if you’re lucky a biscuit or a rum ball. Nanna knows the rum balls are my favourite. So when I let her know I’ll be visiting, she always make an effort to make some for me or provide some for my birthday.
To me this space is so interesting. As Nan and Pop have created a very large family. I ask the following question. Why we choose to inhabit this cosy space when we don’t all fit? Interestingly, other family members have house designed to entertain and are only a few kilometres away. Yet we don’t go there! We go to Nannas. Maybe, the space feels comfortable and perhaps is the right human scale for good old fashion family discussions.
When the kitchen is full or you’re done eating then we would typical rest up in the lounge room. Nanna then gets out the old toys from under the coffee table. Kids grab the toys and immediately play. It is crazy to think many generations have played with the exactly same toys. My dad, my siblings and now my kids. These toys are super basic including a snake, telephone car, board games, dolls house and dolls clothes etc. At the end of the visit they are packed away for the next use.
In the lounge room my nanna promptly hands out her latest knitted jumpers for the grandkids. These pieces are so valuable and beautiful, I’m going to even say priceless. So much time and effort has gone into them. She has such an amazing talent with knitting.
After lunch we walk around the garden and talk. I look at all the elements in the garden. Little knick-knack here. Some flowers in full bloom over there. Fruit trees packed with juicy fruit. Every plant and items has a story and meaning. To me it still feels like I’m a little kid in a gigantic garden. I get absorbed in all the colour, texture and detail in every space. Could my inspiration to become a landscape architect manifested from being in their garden?
Looking back when I was 18 years old, my mum wanted some ideas for her back garden. I said what about a Mexican garden with loads of cactus and brightly rendered wall. My mum loved idea and perused it. Where did I get the insight and inspiration from? Maybe my nannas garden, which is filled with potted cactus. There are so many species of cactus lining many walls around the house. I asked my nanna once why she loves these plants. Her answer was because they have great character, they are spikey and are long-lived. I think similar attributes can be obtained from my nanna.
We watch the kids play on the old playground, trampoline and pick some lemons. Again three generation have done exactly the same thing. My thoughts go back to when I younger opening presents for Christmas and playing games with my extended family. My late pop would be Santa handing out present. To get to your present you needed to shake his firm hand. The hand shake was stronger and got stronger the older you got.
Finally, the long goodbye from the porch whilst enjoying the afternoon sun shine. The kid’s crash and tumble on the lawn. Fondly, my big brother and I did the same thing expect a little bit rougher.
My Nanna to this day still loves her house and garden. She is very proud of it. As she is getting older, she still finds the time to maintain her garden. However, it is getting much harder for her. She currently solves this problem by asking her many sons and daughter to make repairs when they visit. They are more than happy to help because we all love her dearly. I love this respect we have towards her and her wonderful garden.
My Nanna mentions often that she would loss her mind if she went into a nursing home. And I would agree with her. They simple don’t have this freedom in nursing homes to what my nanna has. She jokes people go to nursing homes are there to die! Maybe, to finish her sentence you stay in your house and garden to live.
Overall, the environment nanna and pop have created is highly stimulating and enjoyable house and garden. In my opinion this environment and has directly contributed to her successfully raising her large family.
When I look at newer infill subdivisions. I don’t think the garden size could stimulate a big family. I look over the neighbours fence to Nanna. They yard is filled with hard surfacing everywhere and a simple basketball hoop. There is no trees, shrubs, flowers, bulbs, vegetable garden or even life. At nannas house and garden we played basketball on the road. We also played cricket on the road. We invited the neighbours to play and we all grew up together. It was fantastic!
My Nan and Pop have been in the house for over many years. They have made and continue to influence a fantastic extended family. Also they have established wonderful connections with their neighbour’s. Some of which have departed. Their small house three bedroom concrete commission home position on a quarter arc block. I like this ratio small house with a big garden. The house has only had an outdoor bungalow extension, bathroom upgrade and ramp access to the front. Therefore, pretty much it hasn’t changed. Without being biased I think their garden is one of the best ones on the street.
As more and more infill development occurs throughout old suburbs. We are starting to lose these stories surrounding the gardens. We are losing the value they provide to the occupier and to the community. Instead of pulling down these house and destroying these gardens. Maybe, we need look for ways to keep this house within the family for future generations to experience. Or maybe we need to look for ways they house and garden can be appreciated for the community.
Grandson – BlackPen