The biennial Singapore Garden Festival is a spectacle of unique plantlife, some of which you could grow at home, writes Helen Young.
Australian landscape designers who triumphed at the lush Singapore Garden Festival.
Like everything in the tropics, the Singapore Garden Festival is a lush and immersive experience. Held every two years at Gardens by the Bay, a waterfront precinct sprawling over more than 100ha, it’s a feast of floral and garden displays.
And arguably more relevant to Australian conditions than the tradition-laden RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the UK.
More than 600,000 people visited this year’s event in July. The ‘World of Colour’ theme was explored in a range of show gardens, balcony gardens, orchid exhibits and dozens of special displays. There were botanical wonders at every turn: frangipani trees clothed in fabulous orchids, hanging gardens studded with colourful bromeliads, runner beans more than a metre long and extravagant assemblies of cut flowers.
Among the designers participating in the show-garden competition this year were two well-known Australian landscape designers, Jim Fogarty and Myles Baldwin.
Melbourne-based Jim has more than 30 international design awards, including 15 gold medals, to his name. After four previous medal-winning appearances at Singapore, Jim partnered this year with close friend Andy Sturgeon, one of Britain’s top designers and a regular winner at Chelsea. The two won gold for their Immersion garden, dedicated to their children, which carried an underlying message about the importance of connecting with nature in an age of screen addiction.
At the garden’s heart, inside a steel structure that referenced the World Wide Web, lush tropical plants with bold foliage were used to accentuate the importance of nature in life. The designers added spice to the tropical palette of cordylines, palms, crotons and bromeliads with feature specimens sourced from all over the world. Highlights included the dragon’s blood tree ( Dracaena draco), black elephant’s ear ( Colocasia ‘Black Magic’), bird’s-nest fern ( Asplenium nidus), an orange form of Australia’s golden penda ( Xanthostemon) and ruffled fan palm ( Licuala grandis).
Sydney-based Myles has worked on some of Australia’s most significant gardens and landscapes. In his debut at Singapore he won silver for his Equatorial Gardenesque concept, in which he used tropical plants in the exuberant ‘gardenesque’ style of the Victorian era, with a nod to the modern perennial movement.
“Equatorial gardens are the most exciting visual displays of form and texture,” says Myles. “Year-round colour and big, bold foliage, exotic iridescent flowers and spectacular growth rates are the stuff of dreams to the temperate gardener.”
Inspired by Singapore’s colonial era, his design featured curved walls that formed a stage setting for planting arrangements and specimen trees. A flagstone path invited exploration, leading to a shady pergola dripping with rangoon creeper ( Combretum indicum) and past coral vine ( Antigonon leptopus) tumbling from terracotta pots. Totally lush and lovely.
Jim Fogarty, landscape designer ‘As you journey into the heart of the Immersion garden, you enter a place where nature takes over, a calm and tranquil, water-filled space.’
ABOVE LEFT Ruffled fan palms form a canopy in Jim Fogarty’s Immersion garden, which also featured (from top) Xanthostemon verdugonianus, tibouchina and rosella. FAR LEFT AND LEFTAn evergeen liana (Strophanthus preussii) and white walls in the Equatorial Gardenesque display.