Horti-Couture: from the garden ­čî┐

The work of designers creating botanically-inspired wearables can be seen each year when Horti-Couture is presented in Brisbane. Local dream-maker Bettina Palmer has been encouraging her fellow creatives for some years, first presenting their designs at Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens, Mount Coot-tha, then at the EKKA (Royal Queensland Show), and finally returning to the gardens with a Gala Tea Party organised by the Friends of Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Sherwood Arboretum┬áin the Japanese Gardens.

Although there was a competitive element, guests in awe of all the ingenious outfits basked in both the sun, and a sense of fun.

This year there were two categories:

CATEGORY ONE:┬áTOTALLY RAW – must be unprocessed

Designer: Bettina Palmer

 Wild Thing One & Wild Thing Too morphed from a collection of foraged leaves and flowers including xanthorrhoea, Xerochrysum bracteatum (paper daisies), melaleuca and leptospermum.

Designer: Lauren Dawney

ItÔÇÖs Spring and the Garden is Changing its Clothes.

Inspired by the lifecycle of flowers, fruits and leaves as fresh shoots sprout and old leaves fall. ‘This is a flamboyant, playful celebration of the circle of life in the garden.’

Design collaboration: Horti Torti Trio – Helen Mackay, Jennie Duke and Julie Lumsdale┬á

Super Missy was the result of many coffees and cakes.  The ready-for-spring outfit, complete with mask, bag and shoes, is made from mosses, tillandsias, dyed paperbark, banksias, dried citrus slices and zig zag wattle.

IMG_1791┬ęKim Woods Rabbidge

It was a beautiful day for a parade of wearable art in Brisbane’s Japanese Garden, Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha.

Designer: Laura Emmerson: ‘The Bismarck Bridal Gown’

Hewn from leaves of the Bismarck palm, Bismarckia nobilis, and with a bouquet made from its inflorescence, this bridal outfit seems perfect for a garden wedding.

CATEGORY TWO:┬áPROCESSED or REPURPOSED – must feature botanical theme.

Designer: Barbara Bakker – Myrtle

‘If Barbara was a tree, she’d be a Myrtaceae – a eucalypt to be exact’.

Eucalypts, an integral part of Australian identity since before colinisation, feature in art, music and literature.

Barbara was inspired to create Myrtle using the concept of the possum-skin cloaks worn by Aboriginal people in the southeast of Australia.  Usually made of possum pelts and often decorated with clan insignias, they could be replaced with myrtle on a hot Queensland day.

‘Myrtle’ is a recycled calico cloak, painted and festooned with cascading eucalyptus leaves. ┬áThe base is covered in ‘fallen eucalyptus leaves that break up underfoot and release an aroma that expresses the smell of the Australian bush’.┬áThe leafy crown includes buds, flowers and twigs.


‘Purple Profusion’, designed by Tricia Smout and made of exquisite Korean and Nepalese Lokta paper, was selected for inclusion in this year’s International Hanji Paper Fashion Show in Korea.

A recent Botanic Gardens’ Artist in Residence, Tricia worked on the theme of “The Language of Nature” and collaborated with other multidisciplinary artists through workshops and exhibitions.

Designer: Bee Bowen┬áis a master eco dyer whose textiles capture natureÔÇÖs ephemeral beauty.

She uses leaves, flowers, bark, fruit and seeds along with rusting metals and hot water, to extract the beautiful warm colours which vary depending on the plants, and even the season. Bespoke pieces which are the antithesis to mass production saturating our lives.

This year’s Botanic Gardens’ Artist in Residence, Lesley Kendall┬á(Instagram) produces delicate, nature-inspired work. The fabric above, from one of her designs featuring grevilleas, has been printed in collaboration with Sarah from the sustainable brand, Rant Clothing.

Designer: Brittany Pate from My Little Flower Shoppe

Britt, from Brisbane’s My Little Flower Shoppe adds elegance and drama with ‘decadent foliage, innovative materials and bold colour combinations’.

Designer: Frances Blines – Remnant of Green

Cupaniopsis shirleyana or Wedge-leaf tuckeroo, a vulnerable shrub growing in various types of rainforest, is threatened by weeds and encroaching urbanisation.

This panelled and patched linen dress, decorated with leaves, flowers and fruit of Cupaniopsis shirleyana, represents its survival in remnants of green amongst urban development.

Roots and All


Corchorus cunninghamii or Native Jute, an endangered shrub growing between wet sclerophyll forest and dry sub-tropical rainforest in southeast Queensland and northeast NSW is seriously threatened by weeds such as lantana.

This linen dress features leaves, flowers and fruits of Corchorus cunninghamii and its ecotonal habitat.  The charcoal central panel symbolizes fire as an example of the disturbance this plant needs to thrive.

Gossamer Thin

Gossia gonoclada or Angle-stemmed myrtle is an endangered tree growing along the lower reaches of the Brisbane and Logan Rivers. Apart from its threat by urbanisation and weeds, its also been susceptible to Myrtle rust leaving it even more vulnerable.

This gossamer thin, pale green linen voile dress is edged with Gossia gonoclada leaves, flowers and fruits, symbolising its riverine habitat and tenuous, gossamer thin hold on survival.

While most botanic gardens around Australia have had the support of ‘Friends’ for decades,┬áFriends of Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Sherwood Arboretum has only recently been formed and is already providing benefits for the gardens and members.

You are warmly invited to join and enjoy the many benefits of membership – including this playful parade!

With thanks to Bettina and Stephanie Palmer, and to all the designers who provided notes on their work – and to all the gorgeous models who wore the garments.

8 replies »

  1. Thankou Kim, a wonderful summary of the day and the show with magnificent photographic highlights – and a great tribute to the many artists, models and friends who helped make it such a success for the Friends of Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Sherwood Arboretum.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Kim for the opportunity to view these glorious creations. So much work has gone into some of the designs and I think your detailed images will make viewers realise the effort involved from the “hunter gatherer” stage to assembling to keeping them fresh for the presentation day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a delight to recall the beautiful day in September 2017 when so many talented artists had their creations displayed in one of the best sites at the Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha – the Japanese Gardens!
    The success of the day comes from the glowing comments by the spectators (many more than last year so word is out!) and these beautiful photos (thank you Kim for your expertise here) which gender wonderful memories of the day.
    The plan for next year has already started – keep the date 14 September 2018 free! See you there!

    Liked by 1 person

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