Recently I lead a tour for Opulent Journeys to Singapore where, amongst a pool of international designers, two talented Australians presented gardens for the biennial Singapore Garden Festival – the world’s largest.
Melbourne landscape designer Jim Fogarty, in collaboration with his friend English designer Andy Sturgeon, presented ‘Immersion’ while Sydney landscape designer and horticulturist, Myles Baldwin’s entry was ‘Equatorial Gardenesque’.
Both entries won awards. Immersion won a Gold and Best Construction, Equatorial Gardenesque won a Silver. The show is held in the fabulous Gardens by The Bay – one of the most extraordinary man-made gardens of recent times.
Both Jim and Andy are seasoned, very successful show garden designers who have individually achieved accolades at world events including Chelsea, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, and in Japan. This was the first time they’ve collaborated professionally.
The men dedicated ‘Immersion’ to their children who have for years put up with their dads being away doing garden shows.
Exhibiting at garden shows is rewarding but can be taxing on family dynamics. By including and involving our children, we have allowed them to develop respect for gardens, design, and the natural environment.
With five children between them it seemed fitting the garden featured a recurring theme of ‘5’ including 5 trees and 5 stone seats. Reflecting on the growing problem all children face of screen addiction and dependence on smart phones, the designers hope by exposing their children to a better world they are able to balance the ‘increasing trend of technology use with an appreciation for the natural environment’.
Immersion brief states: The general ergonomic shape of the garden hints at the rounded form of smart phone body design. A haphazard pathway of stone cubes and pavers symbolises keyboard keys and app icons and represents the difficult path which all youngsters have to negotiate. The natural landscape and greenery begin to dominate this world of technology as you step away from it and into the calm space in the centre.
Immersion was the perfect nook for children – plus grown-ups. Although a small space it had a labyrinthine character. The peaceful inner sanctum, enveloped by a pod of woven metal bands seemed all the more appealing in Singapore’s steamy, tropical clime. The lush plant palette added to the cooling effect, and a peace of mind that greenery encourages. Some of the many plants included were costus, pilea, rhapis, ficus, ophiopoun, philodendren,calathea, wrightia, Barringtonia, Tristanin and the lovely tall orchids Arunina gramminifolia.
A quiet, secluded pool enclosed within ‘symbolises purity and the fundaments of nature’. The designers hoped water would diminish the presence of the keyboard ‘as it fades to a dim memory beneath the surface’.
Here we are immersed in nature: safe, secure and protected. A better place. The organic pattern of the structure echoes the woven strands of lianas in the forest with Tillandsia tumbling from the tree canopy above. To focus the mind, an occasional droplet of water falls from above, sending ripples out across the water. Gentle and meditative, it gives us time to reflect on the magnificence of the forest and how the simple things in life can bring the most joy.
Best Construction Award for the builders Eco-Scape was well earned.
Myles Baldwin has had several successful entries in Melbourne and Sydney garden shows but Equatorial Gardenesque was his first foray in Singapore.
Inspired by designers Roberto Burke Marx, Made Wijaya, and Russel Page, Myles’ own garden had a distinctive tropical essence invoking images of plantation retreats and colonial landscapes.
I find equatorial gardens to be the most exciting visual displays of form and texture. Year round colour, big bold foliage, exotic iridescent flowers, and spectacular growth rates are to the temperate gardener the stuff of dreams.
The space between the walls creates a portal in which I have designed a simple stone path and landings. As much of what we do as landscape designers and architects is the creation of access between one destination and another, it seams fitting to incorporate this in the design.
Light weight pavilions are linked by open breezeways festooned in vines. Visitors could walk all the way around the 81 square metre site sneaking glimpses past the oversized crazy paving but without seeing everything at once.
With no true front and rear, the access through the garden focuses upon the option of an obtuse or acute approach to the walled opening, where either a focused or general view of the landscape will be taken. I have found that by doing this the Landscape has the ability to slow down or hasten the way a visitor will spend time in the space.
Equatorial Gardenesque’s planting scheme was inspired from both Victorian gardenesque and the contemporary perennial movement.
Palm and succulent species were used for height while a lush mass of shrubbery including equatorial perennials provided form and colour contrasts.
Lightweight timber battens form two curved walls connected with an open roof structure of steel and terracotta pots. These are inspired by old colonial architecture with predominantly white walls and terracotta roofs.
I was interested in how this may be interpreted in a modern form.
The Singapore Garden Festival will be held again in July 2020 when I’ll be leading another tour not just to the Show – we include many stunning Singapore landscapes. I’d love you to join me.