State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 74 Spring 2004

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Richard Aitken
Bogue Luffmann's Principles of Gardening for Australia

The Principles of Gardening for Australia, published in Melbourne in 1903, is a milestone in local publishing. Standing apart from the overwhelmingly practical school of Australian gardening books, C. Bogue Luffmann's book provides a foil to the author's well-documented career as principal of Melbourne's Burnley School of Horticulture.
The author was born Charles Luffman in 1862 in Devon, the son of George and Emma Luffman.1 The family home at Cockington bordered the popular seaside village of Torquay, where palm trees and other sub-tropical plants flourished in the mild climate, and set off the Mediterranean atmosphere of the harbour. In his late twenties, Charles Luffman spent four years in the dried-fruit industry in Italy, France, and Spain. During 1893, he tramped through Spain seeking to gain a practical understanding of the condition of her agriculture and of ‘the life and social conditions of the common people’. His experiences were recounted in A Vagabond in Spain (London, 1895), an empathetic yet factual account.2 During a brief return to London he met the writer Lauretta Lane. Sixteen years his senior, she was a prolific writer, and prominent in the emerging Socialist movement in England. Her sympathies meshed with those of Bogue Luffmann, as he was now known.3
In 1895 Bogue Luffmann migrated to Melbourne where he married Lane. He was employed by the Victorian government during 1895–96 to provide advice to growers at Mildura in the art of drying fruits.4 In 1897 Luffmann was appointed principal of the Burnley School of Horticulture. He extensively remodelled the central garden, and soon occupied a new residence in its midst, of an ornamental half-timbered style. (Luffmann and his wife separated in 1902, and the writer Elinor Mordaunt shared the principal's house at Burnley from this date.)
During the winter of 1903 Luffmann conducted a course of lectures on gardening in Australia. In the following year he lectured to the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects on the same subject.5 This was not the first airing of Luffmann's opinions on the subject of ‘local needs’, since by this date, his book The Principles of Gardening for Australia was newly published. Judging from the earliest reviews, the book was published in (or by) October 1903.6 A charming soft-covered production of 72 pages, the book was bound with ‘a tasty wrapper of rose-pink’, tied with a matching ribbon.7 Luffmann's publisher was The Book Lovers' Library, run by the well known socialist H. H. Champion and his wife, Elsie Belle, both actively involved in progressive causes. The publishers and their new author shared a highly compatible outlook on life.
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Leader. 18 February 1899, p. 34. The Principal, Mr. C. Bogue Luffman, F.R.H.S. The photograph appears on a page of the newspaper devoted to illustrations of the Burnley School of Horticulture.

Bogue Luffmann's introduction to The Principles of Gardening for Australia was critical of Australian garden making (‘weak and unsuitable to our surroundings’) and of public taste (‘undisciplined, apathetic, and easily satisfied’). The prominence of floriculture, he felt, had contributed to a decline in the art of gardening.8 But he saw signs of hope: ‘Australia has plenty of good raw material’, he concluded, ‘but we have not yet learned to employ it well.’ (p.20) Luffmann was of the opinion that the architect could render great service to Australian gardening, to accommodate ‘a living ornament about every house’. (p.vii) In fact, to view the contents pages of Principles, one could be forgiven for thinking this was the polemic of an arts-and-crafts architect. ‘Garden architecture’, ‘permanent plants’, and formal rose gardens—all prominent concepts in Luffmann's text—seem quite at odds with the widely held view of him as a proponent of naturalism in garden making.
The first chapter, ‘The principles of garden architecture’, essayed an historical overview of the subject. In this, Luffmann was following the approach of several of the authors (such as Sieveking and Nichols) whom he cited in a list of ‘Books for would-be gardeners’ [see overleaf] which concluded the chapter. (p.21) Luffmann listed six main principles governing garden design: architecture, form, and extent of the estate; depth and quality of soil; the capital and labour to be spent in maintenance; ‘proportion of summer to winter’; aspect and nature of surrounding country; and domestic wants, such as fruit, flower, vegetable, and playing areas. To these he added a series of points of general advice regarding design propriety and cited ‘extent and form of land’ as the great variable. (pp. 18–19)
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Luffmann was of the opinion that the study of domestic dwellings and the ‘countries and social life of the people which originated them’ provided clues to ‘the true significance of gardening, and how to design and practise well in Australia’. (p. 12) ‘Architecture and climate are the two great governing factors in all garden schemes’, he declared; the nature of the garden should follow the form and style of the building. (pp. 13–14) Luffmann did not favour one style over others, and gave considerable detail of typical features of several

Books for would-be gardeners

  • Alfred Austin, The Garden That I Love, London, Macmillan and Co., 1894.

  • Alfred Austin, In Veronicas Garden, London, Macmillan and Co., 1895.

  • Gertrude Jekyll, Wood and Garden: notes and thoughts, practical and critical, of a worker of both, London, Longman & Co., 1899.

  • Gertrude Jekyll, Home and Garden, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1900.

  • Gertrude Jekyll, Wall and Water Gardens, London, Country Life and George Newnes Ltd, 1901.

  • Gertrude Jekyll, & Edward Mawley, Roses for English Gardens, London, Country Life, 1902.

  • Albert Forbes Sieveking, The Praise of Gardens: An epitome of the literature of the garden-art, London, J.M. Dent & Co., 1899.

  • William Robinson, Alpine Flowers for English Gardens, London, John Murray, 1870.

  • Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and her German Garden, London, Macmillan, 1898.

  • Wright's Garden Flowers and Plants, McMillan Co.’ [exact details unknown]

  • A.D. Hall, The Soil: An introduction to the scientific study of the growth of crops, London, John Murray, 1903.

  • Edward Kemp, How to Lay Out a Garden …, 2nd ed., London, Bradbury and Evans, 1858, and 3rd ed., 1864.

  • Jane Loudon (ed.), The Villa Gardener …, London, Wm. S. Orr and Co., 1850.

  • J.C. Loudon, The Suburban Gardener, and Villa Companion …, Printed for the author; and sold by Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London; and W. Black, Edinburgh, 1838.

  • J.C. Loudon (ed.), The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the late Humphry Repton, Esq. …, Printed for the editors and sold by Longman & Co. and A. & C. Black, Edinburgh, London, 1840.

  • Rose Standish Nichols, English Pleasure Gardens, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902.

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historical styles, formal and naturalistic. He highlighted the Greek classical orders, Perpendicular Gothic, and the classical revival style of the Renaissance as the commonest styles met with—the first suited the ornamentation of public gardens, the second was closely allied with the ‘natural garden’, and the third demanded formal accompaniments in the way of platforms, steps, and walls. (p. 10)
A romantic outlook permeated the text, and this permits us to glimpse Luffmann's personal preferences. Decrying most architecture as lacking ‘fine natural shapes, and graceful combinations’, he urged recourse to nature. ‘The clouds are our only mainstay’, he wrote, ‘We must learn to reverence [sic] shade and subdued effects.’ By way of explanation, Luffmann praised landscape gardening, by which he meant gardening in the spirit of eighteenth-century English landscape gardening. ‘For studies in design, and in the apportioning of trees and shrubs, and such materials as provide the outlines of gardens’ he noted, ‘nothing is so worthy of our notice as the clouds, on what may be termed lazy evenings.’ (p. 18) ‘Those who would garden well must study architecture, landscape painting, history, and climate, as it affects man, buildings, and plants’ Luffmann concluded, ‘Even romance will help a little, for it is story and atmosphere which we long to fling around every home.’ (p. 19)
The second chapter of Luffmann's Principles was entitled ‘Designing gardens to meet local conditions’. He divided his advice into four principal groupings: ‘the mansion and well-built villa of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and leading provincial towns’; ‘handsome costly houses on residential estates, such as exist in the rich pastoral and agricultural districts, and here and there in high plain country’; ‘public and private houses of good dimensions, by the seaside’; and ‘summer, and permanent residences, as at Mount Macedon, the Lofty ranges and the mountains of New South Wales, and other high cool districts.’ (p.23)
For the first category, Luffmann observed that ‘naturalness must be observed here (in Australia) as far as possible, where houses are of the Dutch, Gothic, and Queen Anne styles’. Within the ambit of ‘naturalness’, he included ‘Decorated stumps, and mounds, ornamented with roots—to represent a fallen monarch’ as being more appropriate than rock-work in a warm climate.’ Natural qualities could also come through surface modelling: ‘Hitherto little has been said of surface form, though you will remember that the garden is entirely an affair of form, and that colour is of quite secondary importance.’ Ease of maintenance favoured the informal garden, although Luffmann cautioned that the plan ‘must be elastic, or it will be expensive to maintain order, and finished attractions, at all seasons, over many years.’ (p.27) As an adjunct, Luffmann added a whole chapter (Chapter Five) on planning, forming, and maintaining small gardens. Here he had in mind what was termed ‘villa gardening’, undertaken on a slightly more modest scale to the gardens considered in Chapter Two, and thus applicable to a far wider group of garden owners.
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Front cover of Bogue Luffmann's Principles of Gardening for Australia. Richard Clough Collection, Sydney.

For the second category, Luffmann again favoured naturalism: ‘The well-built country house calls for an informal or landscape garden.’ He tempered this with the warning that ‘The garden must accord with the demands of climate … the scarcity of water will always limit the extent and character of country house gardens in Australia.’ He pragmatically recommended ‘fruiting trees’, maintaining park-like areas by grazing, and the provision of small fenced reserves for trees, both for shade and ornament. (p.29)
For the third category, Luffmann recommended simplicity as the keynote and decried ‘gaudy, fanciful, cockney gardens’ which characterised much ‘local work’. ‘Man, coming to the seaside, wants few things to remind him of the life and surroundings he has left behind’. Again respecting climate and situation he recommended gardens on the Mediterranean coast as affording ‘the best subjects for study’. (p.30)
For the fourth category, Luffmann recommended terracing as the principal landscape feature, with ‘rude, natural looking beds and borders and banks for such flowering and foliage shrubs and plants as will enjoy the situation’. Dignity and comfort were desirable, but not at the expense of mere replication of the city or its suburbs. ‘(We are scandalised by the sight of the suburban house in the hill district even more than when we find it by the seaside)’ he confided within the hushed tone of brackets. (p.31)
After the high-minded advice of the two opening chapters, Chapter Three (‘Materials available and the practical work of making garden’) was practical and pragmatic. In Chapter Four (‘The selection and arrangement of permanent plants in garden schemes’) Luffmann approached the subject not as a plantsman, but as a designer, more interested in form and character than prescriptive lists or botanical rarity.
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He greatly favoured hedges, but for utility as much as ornament. In Chapter Five (‘Planning, forming and maintaining small gardens’), Luffmann had no wish to encourage horticulture or gardening for its own sake, but as a means of improving the home and its surroundings. ‘As a guiding principle, make no shapes or lines which are not more or less common in nature, for where streets, buildings, and the ding-dong of city life provide so much that is artificial and discomforting, we should find in our gardens a short cut back to nature and rest.’ (p.45) As elsewhere, Luffmann included many detailed hints on specific topics within the overall compass of the chapter. Chapter Six (‘Garden management’) was given over to general advice, all the while Luffmann decrying the general standard of gardening (and professional gardeners) in Australia. Returning to an earlier theme, Luffmann concluded his advice on garden management with remarks of refreshing candour. ‘Of books, those which have most literary charm are most helpful to the amateur’, he wrote, ‘since they create a mood which is inspiring and more definite in its aim, than books which are mere catalogues of plants and directions for managing them.’ (p.66)
Rose gardens, so much a feature of the arts and crafts garden, formed the subject of Luffmann's final chapter. Yet his remarks were sufficiently broad to embrace the formal rose garden born on the drawing board and the informal rosary created more spontaneously by the lover of the natural garden. This inclusive approach marked the whole book, but as elsewhere, Luffmann's preference for romance and naturalism shone through his careful textual balance. Ending with remarks on ‘What may be done in Australia’, he drew his text to a close.
Luffmann's book was written in a bold, confident tone. Its author had travelled extensively, and after almost a decade in Australia, his views were framed with clear view of local conditions. But what reception did Luffmann's views receive? The Principles of Gardening for Australia was widely reviewed in Australia, in the weekly press and specialist journals. The response was very favourable, and in announcing that ‘The First Edition is Nearly Exhausted’ in February 1904, the publishers obligingly reprinted extracts from seven reviews.9
Melbourne's Age and its weekly, the Leader, were positive. The Age drew attention to the practical value of the book, while the Leader probed further and welcomed the book as ‘an acquisition of more than ordinary importance’. Praising the work as ‘Original in conception’, the Leader believed it ‘unnecessary to dilate upon the soundness of his principles’, whilst also noting Luffmann's candid criticism of existing methods. Melbourne's Argus and its stablemate, the Australasian, also offered generous appreciations. The Argus praised the author's enthusiastic promotion of the subject, his ‘rich gift of exposition’, and his encouraging tone: ‘He is not an iconoclast, but a builder.’ The Australasian drew attention to the wide audience, including architects, builders, and amateur gardeners, who might find special value in the book.
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Sydney papers were equally enthusiastic. The Daily Telegraph called Luffmann ‘a true gardener’, adding ‘the true gardener is he who arranges common objects with uncommon grace’. This qualification, remarked the Telegraph, made the book ‘a valuable addition to the library of the Australian Gardener’. The weekly Sydney Mail, published by the Sydney Morning Herald, commented that the author ‘aims high in his exemplary efforts to encourage a better style, or styles, of gardening’.
Of the specialist journals, the Journal of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales provided the loftiest appraisal. The reviewer contrasted Luffmann's preference for informal garden design with architect Walter Butler's advocacy of the formal style, and was sympathetic to Butler's architectural approach—hardly surprising given the target audience.10
The Adelaide-based Garden and Field provided the most enthusiastic review of all, describing the book as ‘altogether excellent … beautiful in conception, and admirable in execution.’ Above all, Garden and Field drew attention to the underlying value of Luffmann's approach: ‘the growing of plants is a mere detail in the high art of gardening, and his book is an attempt to formulate some of the principles of gardening in its higher and better sense’.
Given Luffman's position at Burnley, and his standing as an author (A Vagabond in Spain) published by John Murray in London, it is no surprise that at least one British horticultural journal accorded Principles a review. The Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener praised Luffmann's unorthodox (and ‘surely original’) inspiration in the use of clouds in garden design, and quoted his views on Mediterranean gardens as a worthy model for emulation. In summary, the Journal commented: ‘The booklet, though small, is crammed with suggestions and logical principles, so that it can be used as a little handbook in this country, quite as much as it will be, we hope, in Australia.’11
‘The author really breaks new ground’, commented Garden and Field, echoing a sentiment suffusing many of the press reviews of The Principles of Gardening for Australia. During the nineteenth century, Australian gardening books were overwhelmingly practical. Where advice was provided on design, it was usually confined to a brief introduction, and often this was repeated advice from British sources. There were exceptions, but what distinguished Luffmann's book was the intent apparent in the book's title, to examine design principles applicable to Australia, rather than provide horticultural advice. The book ‘will prove of no use to the mere flower-grower’, observed the Garden and Field reviewer wryly, ‘for it will not help him at all to grow green carnations, yellow asters, blue roses, or chrysanthemums as big as soup plates.’ Not since Thomas Shepherd's pioneering Lectures on Landscape Gardening in Australia (1836) had an Australian author specifically targeted garden or landscape design. And Luffmann spoke from the heart in a manner not seen again until the emergence a generation later of Edna Walling, one of the beneficiaries of his liberal views on education. In fact,
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Walling's Gardening in Australia (1943) and Cottage and Garden in Australia (1947) form logical successors to the garden high-ground of Luffmann's Principles.
Despite the acknowledged novelty and value of the book, it was seemingly printed in small numbers and remains elusive to the bibliophile. The lack of subsequent editions or other documented impressions means that the principles Luffmann wished to convey surely only reached a small initial audience, and a relatively sophisticated one at that. There is no coherent body of evidence that the book had a lasting influence—it was rarely cited by later authors or quoted in journal articles. It seems that a far greater influence was sustained by Luffmann's direct contact with students at Burnley and via recipients of his practical teaching through the Department of Agriculture. In general this influence was in the more practical field of horticulture rather than the loftier realm of garden design. Despite this, The Principles of Gardening for Australia remains a seminal marker in Australian garden design in the twentieth century, and its influence may perhaps only now be unfolding as we attempt to trace the history of under-researched period.
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1

The standard biographical work on Luffman remains the entry by John Patrick in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol.10, pp. 166–67. Luffman changed his name several times, and published his Principles as C. Bogue-Luffmann.

2

C. Bogue Luffmann, A Vagabond in Spain, London, John Murray, 1895.

3

Margaret Bettison, ‘Lauretta Caroline Maria Luffman’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 10, p. 167.

4

‘Mildura Settlement. Report of the Mildura Royal Commission’, Victorian Parliamentary Paper, No. 19.—[9s], presented to both Houses of Parliament, 1896, pp. 125–28.

5

Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Journal of Proceedings, May 1904, pp.39–50, 55–59.

6

For example, see the Leader (24 October 1903), Age (28 October 1903), Sydney Daily Telegraph (31 October 1903), and Sydney Mail (4 November 1903), all quoted in The Book Lover, 1 February 1904, p.18. The State Library of Victoria's copy was accessioned on 7 November 1903.

7

Garden and Field, quoted in Book Lover, loc.cit.

8

C. Bogue-Luffmann, The Principles of Gardening for Australia, Melbourne, The Book Lovers' Library, 1903, p.[vii]. Hereafter, references to this book are given in brackets in the text.

9

Book Lover, loc.cit. There is no record of a second or subsequent edition, although variations in the colour of the printing on the cover (black and dark blue) may indicate a reprinting.

10

Journal of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, 1(1), January 1904, pp.34–36.

11

Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, 21 January 1904, p.57. Somewhat surprisingly, no review is indexed in the highly respected London-based Gardener's Chronicle during 1903–04, although the book may have been noted in the ‘Books received’ listing.