we need more and bigger gardens

On the other side of the street lived an old couple. They weren’t old when we first moved in 32 years ago. Their boys had grown up and left home. Mario had retired and spent much of his time at his club and in his beloved garden. In the back garden he grew fruit trees and vegetables just as he had in his native Italy. The front garden was for show, a centrepiece of neat grass surrounded by shrubs.

Then Mario died. The garden started to deteriorate because his widow did not have the same strength and energy. Her health deteriorated as she aged. She moved into a nursing home. Then, two months ago the house and land was sold.

The unimposing house and spacious garden have gone. They are to be replaced with two large houses and no garden. The land was expensive and the new owner will recoup the money by living in one house and renting the other.

In the current status stakes a large garden is not valued. What impresses is the size of the dwelling and the expensive materials it contains, such as marble or granite benches in the kitchen. So the houses across the road will be large and grand, with fashionably extravagant finishes throughout. Every bedroom with have its own ensuite. There will be a second storey and there will be air conditioning.

This issue has been raised in a recent article by Michael Day, editor of Sanctuary Magazine, published by the Alternative Technology Association. We Need More, and Bigger, Gardens, Not Mcmansions presents the case well. He calls the shrinking of gardens and the corresponding bloating of houses an Australian housing obesity epidemic.

In the last 30 years subdivisions of land have shrunk by up to 50 percent yet the average new house has grown larger by 50 square metres. Despite this occupant numbers have decreased from an average of 3 people per house to 2 and a half. Day places responsibility for this situation onto developers who build large houses because they see it as a good investment.

We need to make people realize that gardens are worth more than larger and larger houses. And we need to pressure governments to protect the environment instead of developers.


  1. Yes I agree, we need to preserve precious land and trees. I really hope to do the landscape and ecosystem justice when I buy my land.

  2. Dear Catmint, Never has a truer word been said. I agree with everything that you say here. Increasingly, it would appear, people do not want what they see as the 'work' of even a modest sized garden - albeit there is sufficient outside space to park two or more motor cars.

    The situation you describe here is also very common now in the UK with the additional problem of building on flood plains with disastrous results.

  3. My Internet is back again, and what a thoughtful article. True here in the UK as well.

  4. Over here the house and garden is often replaced by a block of flats/apartments and car parking or a number of houses with small rooms and tiny gardens.
    As you say, if large houses are built the garden is very small in proportion. As to this fad for a bathroom in every bedroom - it's crazy.

  5. People and their children would certainly be healthier if they spent more time taking care of their gardens and less time in front of the TV or video games inside the large homes. We bought our home because it was one of the few lots in our neighborhood with a decent-sized backyard. But I understand that many people don't have the desire to keep up their exterior. Too bad, for I think it is good for the soul as well as for the neighborhood/environment.

  6. Unfortunately, it is just so true. I used to work for a home builder and designed new landscapes for the buyers. It just ticked me off when some would ask me if it was required that they have plants in the yard. Thankfully, it was required...

  7. Catmint, Life SHOULD be about Function AND Beauty.

  8. oh no. I'm sorry this has happened. I think the building of mcmansions is just ridiculous. I mean, I'm not necessarily opposed to large homes. Even really large homes. But why buy in a community of smaller homes, squish two giants that tower over everyone in? It actually really pisses me off.

  9. Hello, I slipped in to your blog from fairegarden.

    Very intersting post. And very universal I would think. I live in a very prosperous community just outside Stockholm, Sweden.

    I am gardendesigner, and is also seeing this trend that you describe, spreading here. People sell off a part of their garden, to be built upon as a way to get money to enlargen their own house... thus, there will be virtually no garden left for either house...

    Horrible. These far too big houses on a little patch of soil.

    Anyways, nice to see and read a little about your own garden:-) so different from my own!

    Cheers from Hillevissan

  10. Catmint, when we first saw Kilbourne Grove, the seller had divided the property into three lots. Whe (I mean I) wanted a big garden, so we purchased all three lots. All our neighbours were relieved, they had been dismayed at the idea of two extra houses!

  11. Hi Catmint~~ I'm doing Google Reader now in hopes of keeping better track of my favorite blogs, yours included.

    It's not just Australia. The McMansion epidemic is alive and festering here too. I have a loathing for developers who rape the land of its flora and fauna so they can fatten their already obese wallets. It's a travesty. I'm not sure about global warming as a whole but you have to wonder about the gazillions of rooftops that radiate the sun's heat while [now a half mile away] the forest is 20 degrees cooler. Hmm... not exactly rocket science.

  12. Thank you for the comments. It's nice to be agreed with, but I'm sorry this situation exists in other countries too.

    It is interesting that Deborah, you bought all three plots when you acquired Kilbourne Park.If you hadn't presumably there would have been three mcmansion - type homes there.

    Grace, I'm so pleased that you've organized your favourite blogs and that you're back.

    Shady, your comment intrigued me and I'd love you to spell out more when you mean when you say life should be about function as well as beauty. I have no problem with denser population in cities. But I think we do need to work out a way of living with nature instead of dominating and disrespecting it.

    Cheers, catmint

  13. Well said! Part of the joy of living is being connected to the cycles of nature ... a house is not grand if it is not connected to the outside and nature. Why even have windows?

  14. Yes right we need to protect trees and environment.


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