‘place.grow.shift‘, the amazing little show garden from AILDM at last week’s Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS 2014) was one of the most innovative display gardens we’ve seen in recent years. But it’s not just a display, as these modular design ideas are perfect for those with limited space, those on a budget, and especially those who rent rather than own their garden space.
The Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers (AILDM) have had a presence at MIFGS in previous years but this is their first show garden. AILDM Directors Ruth Czermak and Stephen Read kicked it off and then Meg Geary, Heather Hesterman, Hamish Williamson and Anna Murphy came up with place.grow.shift, a concept garden built from an array of inexpensive modular components made from stained or painted timber and powder-coated steel. Using these exact same modular components, other designers could create completely different gardens over the five days of the show. The changeover was even done as performance art rather than in the dead of night, so show-goers could see exactly how the modules came apart and also fitted together, learning how easily they could be remade into something new.
It also neatly illustrates one of AILDM’s core promises – that if you choose an AILDM designer for your garden, you won’t get a look-alike ‘cooky cutter’ garden that could be anyone’s anywhere. Each designer will bring different ideas and a unique aesthetic to create just one of the many solutions that could suit you and your site.
place.grow.shift also makes a truly sustainable garden, as for every change, there’s no waste. Nothing left over, nothing new to buy. Same structural elements, same plants – the ultimate reuse and repurpose, but with the added bonus of feeling like you’re in a completely new garden. Or pull it down, pack it up, and take it with you to a completely new place. It’s a garden in a truck!
Design 1 – the first iteration on Wednesday from the team of Heather Hesterman, Anna Murphy, Hamish Williamson and Meg Geary created 4 small courtyard gardens, with a sitting area, calming forest, and the others devoted to growing plants.
I was interested to see that they made only one sitting area, leaving the others as gardens by placing many of the elements into the centre of each space, rather than around the outside. This creates a distinctly different proportion of mass and void and makes several of the areas feel much more like gardens, where the plants take central stage, rather than like outdoor rooms.
Lunchtime Thursday saw the pull apart of Design 1 and the ‘build’ of its Design 2 replacement by Craig McDonald and Brad Phillips of Spade Design. Even though I was anticipating the design change, I was still surprised at the totally different gardens that emerged. Spade’s design created 3 small sitting areas, sized right for an individual balcony, or a group of tiny connecting courtyards.
It was a great division of space – together, yet apart – which I think is an ideal design premise for concentrated urban living. Each of us likes our own patch, but the tight boundaries of a city community makes creating completely separate areas impractical and anti-social. I especially like the chequerboard effect of plants combined with the red and blue painted boxes.
By mid Friday, Jason Cahill of Botanical Traditions had his turn with Design 3, changing the gardens from hipster courtyards to a ‘playground’ for kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos).
What a fun concept – a playground for plants and a very clever rethink of how these boxes and cylinders can be used. It does make you wonder what our plants do when we’re not watching.
But this isn’t just fun. Look at the way these shapes work together to create a whole new way to think about displaying and enjoying plants. Go and put your life off balance, I say.
Saturday saw the change into the last version, Design 4, from a team of Jennie Curtis, Chris Curtis and Renae Palmer of Fresh Landscape Design. This garden had a very different mood, creating one larger, split level open area and two smaller separate screened-off zones with a fabulous framed look at the stunning kangaroo paws.
I love these clean, simple lines and the way those reds are allowed to dominate the front aspect, melting into the cooler blues in the background.
Just to really demonstrate the democratic nature of this concept garden, on the final show day a ‘crowd-sourced’ designer, Ben Trend (a student at RMIT) was invited to make his own design, after just an hour of planning. I very much like the staggered shapes he’s made with the boxes, which have been used like you would furniture in a large room. They’ve provided bulk and a sense of separation but also enclosed the sitting space just enough to make it feel cosy. The stepped outlines of those shapes are very pleasing, accentuated by the large plants ‘exploding’ out of the boxes.
Well done AILDM, for coming up with a great new show garden concept that explains the design process so well, and jumping the logistical hurdles to make it happen.