“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero
Living in the city certainly has its advantages. Our society is becoming increasingly urbanised and therefore governments tend to look after city dwellers better than they do country dwellers – after all that’s where most of the votes are. A city can offer convenience in transportation, shopping, amenities, services, facilities, entertainment, sporting venues, etc, etc. The down side of all of this of course is that we are becoming crowded into smaller and smaller spaces, with a decreased privacy, more liable to the effects of excessive noise, pollution, congestion, crime, etc, etc.
One of the greatest things that city dwellers may need to sacrifice is the pleasure of natural ambience, be it the wide open spaces of the great outdoors or the tamed natural space of a garden. Sure enough there may be parks in a city and some houses may be lucky enough to have a garden, but for the most part, in most large cities around the world, the opportunity to interact with nature may be limited.
I consider myself exceedingly lucky to live in a major metropolis (Melbourne has a population of 4.25 million, and it also has the fastest growing population rate amongst all Australian capital cities), but still be able to enjoy the pleasures of an urban garden. Our garden is a sanctuary, a space where we can enter and unwind, observe the change of the seasons, and be able to extend our activities into, as weather allows. It is a place where we can plant and cultivate – flowers for our vases, herbs for the kitchen pot and even a few seasonal vegetables: Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, lettuce, Spring onions, spinach, silverbeet, according to the season.
We are gradually being surrounded by increased housing density. Single dwellings in our street are being demolished and in their place there are multi-dwelling developments being built. Units, flats, apartment buildings. It is sad to see the gardens gradually disappearing and what once was a green suburb become a place of concrete and multi-storey (generally ugly) buildings. Such is the way of urban agglomerations, human greed and increasingly lax building regulations that allow more and more people to live in smaller and smaller spaces. At the current rate, it looks like Melbourne will become more like another of the overseas ugly large modern cities with great aggregations of multi-storey apartment buildings everywhere.
When we lived in Athens, our suburb was green and gardens were not infrequently seen. Now visiting Athens one doesn’t recognise the place of old. Athens has become a large, sprawling concrete jungle. Only the very rich and privileged can afford dwellings with gardens. Melbourne is marching down the same path, unfortunately.
For the present, we can enjoy our garden, our urban oasis and be grateful that we are able to maintain it against the overdevelopment that is surrounding us. Inevitably of course, even our little Eden will disappear and concrete will be found where now there roses blooming…