Once again a collaboration of countries all flocked to Nagasaki, Japan to compete and participate in the annual Gardening World Cup. There were 3 categories this year: show gardens, with chosen designs representing UK, France, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Morocco and Canada. The second category was the small courtyard gardens, all done by Japanese entries. The third category was the large feature gardens, which are not judged but there to enhance the show, and installed by previous show winners, which included me, (South Africa), Nico Wissing from The Netherlands, and Kazuyuki Ishihara from Japan.
The garden theme this year for all the show gardens was ‘Floral Paradise’. This created a great mix of art and also a focus on plants came to the forefront in this show. I am truly worried by garden shows that focus more on architecture than the actual plants. Garden shows should concentrate mainly on plants and how to design with them, focussing on new planting combinations and display interesting and rare species. At the moment I believe that most of the shows are losing the art of planting, and are just gaining on the art of plastering. OK, getting back to the show at hand…
Chatting about some of the show gardens first, you could not help but notice each garden being uniquely different to the next one. I really loved that! And the public did too!
The first garden that caught the eye was the Italian garden and silver medal winner done by Stefano Passeroti, someone who always has a smile on his face, and is eager to share his design with everyone. This garden is all about sound. The 3 different sized concrete pipes each has a handmade clay speaker inside that played the calm sounds of Lake Como in Italy. Soothing sounds of frogs and other nightlife mixed with the water flowing out of the pipes and made me feel calm and relaxed.
The UK was represented by Paul Hervey-Brookes, and won Best Planting, Gold and Best in Show – Show Garden. The garden was difficult to view from the outside, but done that way for a reason as it represented a private space outside the home where you could unwind and think. It’s a little retreat where you can relax in the sun on a floating bamboo lounger, or wander through a series of walkways taking you to little hideaway areas with stunning planting – as only Paul can do.
The use of bamboo screens together with screed walls were a hit as it was meticulously handmade with lighting hidden inside that gave a soft but electric feel to the garden at night.
Japan had an amazing gold winning garden this year, by Kazuho Inohana. He is from Kyoto and is a true Japanese garden designer unlike any other Japanese designers out there. He also won Best Construction, as the whole structure was constructed and placed with absolute precision and care without a drop of concrete, all done the traditional old way of dry stone construction that included an amazing bridge, walls, steps and water feature. This was also a hidden garden from the outside but with a fairy tale picture that awaited you when you entered, moss dripping down branches and rocks everywhere, stunning designed tiled walkways, and contemporary comono silk arches. All of this nestled softly between autumn coloring maple trees.
Then there was the silver awarded French garden designed by Phillipe Niez. This was more focused on being an interactive and arty garden than a home garden, all based on a story of a little girl in Nagasaki at the end of WW2 who made a wish and folded a piece of paper into a crane. Although she died as a result of the bombing, the folding of the paper crane to make a wish still lives on. In the garden you had to write your wish on a piece of paper and pin it to the beautifully decorated trees, and after you would take a heart shaped candle to light. It was a garden made by a passionate designer who attaches deep meaning to his art.
Canada’s show garden was designed by Robert Boltman and Alex Barlett. This outdoor space and barn style garden was not to be missed as the lighting at night gave the garden a sense of glamour, showcasing the white arched structure and steel water feature.
The first of the feature gardens was done by Nico Wissing of the Netherlands. I have immense respect for his work and planting ability, and his planting yet again was amazing as always. Both of us are more nature-orientated in design, and have more plants in our designs than structures. His garden brief depicted the life of a pine tree, from seed, to saplings, to a mature tree, and then on to the death of the tree. The planting palette was light and soft, and seemingly misty, with sparks of soft colour poking out its head every now and then.
The next feature garden was a collaboration done by little old me and Bayley LuuTomes of New Zealand. The garden was called ‘Through the Eyes of a Child‘, and it’s how we saw nature in our imagination as a magical place when we were children. We used the autumn falling leaves everywhere in Japan at the moment as the main feature of the design.
Rivers of golden leaves flow down the valley where they get picked up by the wind and taken up in a funnel, twirling through a tree made out of driftwood, where they seemingly get a new lease on life, morphing into white innocent butterflies, which then fly up high through the air into the surrounding borrowed landscape. The chrysalis of the Monarch butterflies were handcrafted by us (until very late at night!) and served as colored lanterns in the garden.
The bright orange floating edge running through the meadow garden represented the line between reality on the outer side and the child’s imagination, ever-changing, and colorful, on the inner circle.
The planting was light, colorful and had to dance in the wind the same as the butterflies would do. The plant palette was also carefully chosen to attract as many wild butterflies and dragon flies as possible, and so it did, a lot of them!!!
As usual the show was full of activities to create more interaction between the designers and the public, with the inclusion of fun ‘speed gardening’ competitions between designers, as well as garden design illustrations and planting combo demonstrations for the public by some designers. The Gardening World Cup is all about showcasing different design styles to the Japanese public.
The GWC is a show that has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Being 5 years old this year, they also included some international floral art installed by some well known floral artists,
I had the pleasure of installing one on the Palace steps called ‘The Sunny Side Up’.
But my favorite would have to be the installation by Rebecca Louise Law – a massive curtain of falling chrysanthemums attached by wires, slowly drying out, and through that giving the installation a constant feel of change.
Yet again it’s been a show worthy to see and experience, typhoon and all. This popular garden design show is, and will always be, on top of my list of must-see garden shows.