New gardens and gardening exhibition opens at the State Library

Step into the lush world of Cornucopia and explore the vibrant history of gardens and gardening in South Australia in a new free exhibition at the State Library of South Australia.

Now open, Cornucopia: gardens and gardening in South Australia reveals South Australia’s rich gardening heritage, where gardens are not just landscapes but living, breathing reflections of our past.

From First Nations peoples’ caretaking of the land to suburban sanctuaries and grand estates, this exhibition showcases the diverse roles gardens have played in people’s lives.

Curated by State Library staff, Mark Gilbert (Exhibitions, Media & Marketing Librarian) and Isabel Story (Engagement Librarian), from the Library’s extensive collections, visitors can see rarely displayed garden manuals, seed catalogues, diaries, records, photographs, maps, and even vintage toys.

Exhibition highlights include South Australia’s first gardening and viticulture book from 1843 and a 1947 silent film by Hubert Wicks. The rarely seen footage features floral displays from Flower Day, the innocent play of children and the glories of spring in South Australia.

Visitors can explore images and records of South Australia’s most magnificent gardens, along with fascinating oral histories of market and community gardeners as they share their experiences and the evolution of gardening practices over time. And don’t miss everyone’s favourite, the iconic Hills Hoist – an ornament of many Australian back gardens.

A much-loved photo of both curators was that of a woman hanging out washing on the Hills Hoist surrounded by water. Curator Mark Gilbert says, “You have to admire her determination to hang her washing out while standing on sandbags as the mighty Murray was flooding and lapping at her back yard.”

Curator Isabel Story says, “I hope people walk away with a sense of the pleasure that we can derive from gardens, whether we live in a grand stately home with manicured lawns or a tiny house with some climbing plants on a fence, and a stack of pot plants.”

Director State Library of South Australia, Geoff Strempel, says “We are pleased to open our new exhibition and share more of the stories that have woven the fabric of our state. The exhibition is a celebration of nature, heritage and community and told with carefully selected items and stories from the Library’s collections.

“Cornucopia, is a must for all garden lovers but also for those with a curiosity about the past. Our younger visitors can also get involved by creating their own plant or leaf using paper cutting and folding techniques at our family table. We are looking forward to seeing our garden trellis grow with their creations.”

The exhibition is open now and continuing until well into 2024. An exciting public program of events, including curator talks, panel discussions and more family activities, will be released in January 2024.

  • Staff Writer

    Made up of a small, tight knit team of writers and contributors who are passionate about all things FIFTY+ and the New Age. We love Adelaide and wider South Australia and sharing with you all of the l...


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