Cosmic Shit Gardens

Words by
Georgina Reid
| February 4, 2016

I discovered the Shit Gardens Instagram feed around six months ago and immediately told everyone I knew about it. It shone like a beacon amongst the pretty-ness of the usual Instagram pics – flowers, food, holidays, and dogs. Theres nothing wrong with such subjects of course, but sometimes I like a bit of grit. Or shit, in this case. And as James and Bede, the boys behind Shit Gardens suggest, you can’t appreciate the good without the bad.

Hi Shit Gardens! Who are you? Where do you live?
There are in fact two of us who run the page, James and Bede. We each live in the inner north of Melbourne, but also grew up together in the bucolic ‘tree-changers’ town of Bellingen, northern NSW.

Can you please tell us a little about your life with plants?
We both come from families in which plants are of great importance, with each of our fathers having an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants from their professions. James’ father, who is a National Parks Ranger, actually appeared on Totally Wild (a television show aimed at engaging children with the great outdoors) where he would speak about various species of plants and animals that were native to northern NSW. Bede’s grandfather on the other hand, discovered and named various species of moss whilst working as a botanist in Borneo.

What do you do outside of Shit Gardens?
Bede is currently in bed with a hangover watching ‘Private Life of Plants’ by David Attenborough, but also graduated quite recently from the Masters of Landscape Architecture at Melbourne University, where he was particularly interested in urban agriculture after a stint studying in Malaga, Spain.

James on the other hand, is midway through his Masters of Secondary Teaching at RMIT. He has trouble at times though submitting his assignments, often losing marks for critiquing school gardens when really he should be discussing classroom management strategies.

What inspired you to start the Shit Gardens Instagram feed?
It all began by going on long walks around the suburbs, where we would often find ourselves staring over people’s fences and observing what they had on display.

We would find gardens that seemed inexplicably bad and began to wonder just how they came about. Funnily enough, we gradually came to appreciate these sorts of gardens and the way they so effortlessly juxtaposed the grand ambitions of intent with the inelegance of unfinished reality.”

Do you like non-shit gardens too?
Oh, of course. We’re all about equilibrium and balance. You can’t appreciate the good without recognising the bad.

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"Amphitrite: goddess of the ocean. Diminished by poets; bound to the sea. Forever, a Brunswick mainstay." 
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"Tropical Gardening tip 101: folded yucca fronds create the illusion of pineapple from a distance."
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"Suppressed Cupressus: big bird in a small cage."
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"Mother Mary guards her yuccas: the Brunswick immaculata."
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"Dietes Grandiflora: the wild iris. A symbol of virility amid red-brick fortresses."
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"Buddha reclines suggestively amongst the agave, oozing with zen and enlightenment."
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"Perennials perched aboard concrete mast: phallic yet resplendent."

Do you have gardens? And if so, are they shit?
We are both residing in share-house accommodation, meaning that we also share our gardens with others. Last time James joked about his houses’ garden being ‘shit’, his 2 litre bottle of milk mysteriously disappeared from the fridge the following morning.

What qualities do you look for in a shit garden?
If you were to browse through the posts on our page you would certainly see some emerging patterns.

Recurring ‘shit gardens’ themes include but are not limited to: yuccas, radioactive gravel, birdbaths, fountains, Zen-related paraphernalia, astro-turf, and of course our favourite, Roman-Catholic Iconography.”

Though in saying that, there is a distinction between shit gardens which are created by neglect and ambivalence, and those that are a product of wayward design or ill-conceived construction. Those in the second category tend to be the most interesting shit gardens, the ones which have the most bizarre beauty or make you wonder the most deeply about the designer’s intent.

Please describe your ultimate shit garden.
We would have to go with a sturdy yucca or two, juxtaposed against a 1970s red-brick wall, alongside a path leading to nowhere. In front of the yuccas, there would be a dramatic interplay between peeling statues and radioactive gravel. You’d get a real sense that the garden’s creator had ambitions of Versailles in Moonee Ponds.

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"Pastel hues and subtle use of tinsel brings birdbath to life," explain James and Bede of Shit Gardens.
"Pastel hues and subtle use of tinsel brings birdbath to life," explain James and Bede of Shit Gardens.

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