The inclusion this year of the humble garden gnome in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show could be seen as a sign that any expression of gardening from whatever class or background you come from is justified and should not be judged on matters of taste. In Australia the celebration of the suburban bogan is certainly welcome on our TV screens.
In Australian literature, Patrick White had great affection for bogan characters in his dusty suburban Sarsparilla of the late 1950's and early sixties. In the short story Down at the Dump, the garden of Wal and Isba Whalley has a big Camphor Laurel tree (Cinnamomum camphora) which is 'lopped back every few years for firewood', its trunk scarred by son Lum who slashes at the bark with a knife 'because it was something you did'. Out back standing in knee high paspalum grass is the two-tone Ford Customline...'it looked stolen and almost was ...the third payment overdue' while the twins Barry and Garry, looking like a couple of 'taffy brumbies', play in a rusty boiler they use as a cubby.
Across the road in a liver-coloured brick home with a cream Holden Special in the driveway lives Councillor Les and Myrtle Hogben and their daughter Meg. On the cool side of the house grow tall fuchsia bushes with a ground cover of aluminium plant (Lamium galeobdolon) Meg, dressed in her brown school uniform, is thin and freckly with the eyes of a 'mopey cat'. She hides from her mother, 'standing amongst the fuchsia bushes looking out from their greenish shade. Her skin was green except where the war between light and shade worried her face into scraps: and the fuchsia tassels trembling against her unknowing cheek, infused something of their own blood, brindled her with shifting crimson. Only her eyes resisted.'
White wrote later of these characters in 'Letters' (edited by David Marr) ....but Meg Hogben and Mum Whalley are the pure, the truthful, those of whom we may have hopes in the future.'