THE MASTER GARDENER - A Biography of T. R. Garnett


Tommy Garnett, creator of the famous Garden of St Erth at Blackwood, Victoria, became one of Australia's best-known garden writers, a rational crusader for plants, gardens and gardeners, birds, nature conservation and the environment. Few of his devoted readers knew anything of his life before the garden - the experiences that informed the wise, crisp, erudite, playful newspaper columns and books. Half of his long life - he died in 2006 aged 91 - was as an Englishman, half as an Australian. He was an innovative, controversial, successful head of two world-famous schools, England's Marlborough College and Australia's Geelong Grammar. Had he been a snob he could have boasted of his family's literary connections or rattled off long lists of distinguished students, staff and colleagues who acknowledged his influence - poets, cricketers, princes, scholars, ornithologists, scientists, artists. Nor did he boast of his own sporting triumphs (first-class cricketer, British Eton Fives champion) or of his tough war years as a ground-based RAF squadron leader, decorated for service behind enemy lines, in Bengal and Burma. Born into wealth, thrown into penury, surviving as a scholarship boy, finding the love of his life after the war, Garnett was a man of accomplishment and wisdom, forever open to new insights and to new experiences. Australia reaped the benefit.