Trop­i­cal Reign

The bi­en­nial Sin­ga­pore Gar­den Fes­ti­val is a spec­ta­cle of unique plantlife, some of which you could grow at home, writes Helen Young.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

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.

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