Garden varieties in vivid colour

The Mount Macedon garden in Victoria, Australia, is a garden featured in the book, Dreamscapes: Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far.
The Mount Macedon garden in Victoria, Australia, is a garden featured in the book, Dreamscapes: Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far.PHOTO: CLAIRE TAKACS

NEW YORK • Forget the perfect trophy garden. Today's finest landscapes are positively wild.

At its core, a garden is a place where you connect your senses to beauty.

Photo-rich books of personal Edens are welcome if they are correctly focused. They go wrong when they present trophy gardens built for wealthy people who do not know their hummus (food dip or spread) from their humus (compost).

Claire Takacs is a garden photographer who understands this. Based in Australia and Britain, she has had the enviable task of shooting some of the finest private gardens on four continents.

Sixty-nine are presented in her new book, Dreamscapes: Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far.

Through her work, she has a rare global perspective on the state of garden-making in the early 21st century.

 Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far.
Dreamscapes: Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far

As a rule, gardens everywhere are looser and more natural than ever.

At a grand neoclassical estate in Scotland, the owner has turned an old walled vegetable garden into a frothy incoming tide of perennials and grasses, including beauties such as Mexican feather grass, astilbes, echinops and echinaceas.

In Victoria, Australia, there are similar effects with a plant palette attuned to a hotter, drier climate.

Some gardens are lower-key but no less naturalistic or reflective of gentle artistry.

Twenty-two of the featured gardens are in the United States, including Skylands, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart's natural beauty in Maine.

Like many garden photographers, Takacs likes to take pictures when the sun is low in the sky, at dawn and dusk. This is when the flower heads of grass, in particular, catch the light.

Collectively, her images demonstrate just how important grass has become in bringing life and sparkle to a garden.

The gardens devoid of grass seem duller for their absence, with the exception of those Takacs photographed in Japan, which have a separate quality about them.

A good example of this need for grass is the picture of a garden in Spain with blobs of clipped shrubbery and lavender.

The seed heads of giant stipa grass grab the golden sunlight and elevate and lighten the scene.

Asked whether gardens are becoming globalised to the point of homogeneity, her answer is an emphatic no.

"Gardens to me are often works of art, so they are at best a reflection of the people who made them," she said. "This is why they are unique and special, regardless of whether they are using a similar planting style or plant palette."

And, she pointed out, the quality of the light varies so much by locale.

"I see great beauty in all of them and I use light to attempt to show them at their most beautiful. It's my greatest reward when a garden owner says I see what he sees."

WASHINGTON POST

• Dreamscapes: Inspiration And Beauty In Gardens Near And Far (US$31.45 or S$41.20) is available from Amazon.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2018, with the headline 'Garden varieties in vivid colour'. Print Edition | Subscribe