James Greenlees' school garden and the suburban dream in colonial Australia

Kay Whitehead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper focuses on the work of a late nineteenth century headmaster, James Greenlees, who earned the reputation as the ‘pioneer of school gardening’ in the British colony of South Australia. In addition to manual training, school gardens served multiple purposes internationally during this era. For example they were promoted as a resource for teaching and a way of supplementing teachers’ incomes.2 School gardens were used to teach older students the technical skills of gardening as well as reinforcing connections between nature, hard work and moral improvement.3 They were also integral to the progressive education of young children along the lines suggested by Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel, for example who promoted nature as a template for understanding the world.4 Developing students’ sense of beauty and aesthetics was another goal alongside the beautification of school grounds and other public spaces.5 However, the aims of school gardening were frequently differentiated by class, race and gender. Gardening for white middle class girls was oriented towards the ornamental and aesthetic, for example whereas the focus was more practical in the case of working class and immigrant children.6 School gardening was designed to expose rural and indigenous boys to agriculture and thus its purpose was vocational.7 And in co-educational schools there was likely to be a gendered division of labour if girls were included at all.8
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-352
Number of pages11
JournalStudies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • gardening
  • Public School
  • agriculture
  • teaching
  • manual training


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