Out damn squirrel, and take your acorn with you.

It seems to me many Australian homes and gardens lack a sense of place.  Instead of drawing on our own natural environment, so many motifs in crafts, fabric, wallpaper, homewares etc feature European or American style natural icons: why do we want deer heads/squirrels/robins/acorns/rabbits, etc in our homes?  Doesn’t anyone else find this jars with our surroundings, or feels a bit incongruous? 

Is it that we are a highly urbanised country so many Australians don’t feel a connection with or even have knowledge of the Australian landscape?  Or is it that so many of us are descended from European forebears and have these landscapes imprinted deep in our DNA?  Maybe it’s cultural cringe that makes us avoid anything ‘Australiana’ since it recalls kitsch artworks and concrete Aboriginal statues of the 1950’s?  Or are exotic images from far away places always more fashionable and desirable just because they are different, and somehow more exciting?

Why is it that we carefully recycle our garbage to help the environment, then plant our gardens with exotic species thereby failing to provide preferred food and shelter for wildlife in our immediate environment?  Is it ignorance or is it by design? 

There are exceptions;  the talented Julie Patterson of Cloth features the native flora of her adopted country and the divine Catherine Martin features Australian motifs on her wallpapers.  Many high-profile landscape gardeners include natives in their designs, but the average new house has a garden totally devoid of endemic species, unless subject to a council quota of some sort.  Is there a mental line that is drawn between the urban – where you build your own landscape independent of your surrounds – and the landscape beyond?

I’m not suggesting a ban on exotic imagery or flora, or decorating with boomerangs and  – merely wondering why our own is so sparsely represented?   Haven’t you had enough of squirrels on stuff, people?


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