Stephen ReadMy design in Garden DesignFest, 2014

This year I decided to ask one of my clients to open their garden for the Melbourne Garden DesignFest. It was a request I didn’t take lightly; a residential garden is a deeply personal thing. One of the most rewarding aspects of designing residential properties is the deep sense of ownership my clients have for their gardens. Every garden is unique, as is every client, so it really doesn’t matter who else likes the garden.

Melbourne DesignFest 2014 garden. Garden design by Stephen Read

Melbourne DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read

Melbourne DesignFest 2014 garden. Garden design by Stephen Read

Melbourne DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read

Melbourne DesignFest 2014 garden. Garden design by Stephen Read. Pomegranate hedge

Melbourne DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read. Pomegranate hedge

However, hundreds of strangers walking through this personal space can feel like a gross invasion of privacy and any judgment can be taken as a wonderful vindication or a soul destroying slap in the face.I felt it was important to take the risk and open a garden to share with the public an alternative philosophy of design. A thoughtful garden, where the colour of the paving is selected to keep the garden cool, trees are placed to shade people and not the garden and structure is placed at the back of the bed creating a more relaxed ambiance. A philosophy where it is possible to have a beautifully balanced garden without symmetry or lawn.

I am happy to say the weekend was a wonderful and rewarding experience. Everyone I spoke to enjoyed the tranquility of the garden. Many spent time nutting out the philosophy, working out the how and why of the placement of trees and structure. Late on Sunday afternoon a bus of visitors descended on the garden looking a bit rushed and flustered. The tour leader came up to me apologetically to explain they only had 3 minutes then back on the bus. I am happy to say the group had other plans; they enjoyed the garden so much they continued to quietly soak in the tranquil surroundings and ask questions for over fifteen minutes (I think they missed the next destination!).

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Visiting crowds enjoying Melbourne’s Designfest 2014

I am pleased to say the experience was also rewarding for the owners. Often when you live with something long enough you start to take it for granted, so it was nice for the owners to have a few hundred strangers reinforce how lovely the garden really is!

Bench seat

Melbourne DesignFest 2014. Garden design Stephen Read. Timber bench

Melbourne DesignFest 2014 garden. Garden design by Stephen Read - pines and meadow

Melbourne DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read – pines and meadow

Melbourne Garden DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read. Chair and plumeria

Melbourne Garden DesignFest 2014. Garden design by Stephen Read. Chair and plumeria

 

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Stephen Read

About Stephen Read

Stephen’s passion for gardens has been unwavering. His drive for experience led to a remarkable career highlighted with diverse opportunities including time as a horticulturist at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Centennial Park and Elizabeth Farm. Stephen has also held the position as florist for the Governor of NSW and worked in London for the internationally renowned Clifton’s Nurseries.  Stephen now runs a successful design studio in Macedon, Victoria, Stephen Read Landscape Design.  Stephen and his partner currently reside in the 'other house' at 'Tugurium' with Stephen Ryan as landlord, neighbour and friend, where life is filled with perpetual inspiration and horticultural joy.

5 thoughts on “My design in Garden DesignFest, 2014

  1. debdjd on said:

    A beautiful garden and worthy of sharing and showing off 🙂

  2. Interesting to hear about Garden DesignFest from an exhibiting designer’s perspective Stephen.

  3. steven on said:

    Stephen, you hit the nail on the head when you said “Every garden is unique, as is every client, so it really doesn’t matter who else likes the garden”. As a past GDF designer and garden owner I agree with this. And this year I was also fortunate enough to be asked to be the Sunday bus tour guide. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many great gardens over the weekend and my head is now filled with inspiring design ideas and plant combinations!!

    At the end of the day the garden visitors opinion is just that … their/my opinion. These are private gardens created for the enjoyment of the garden owners and there are numerous decisions made about how the gardens look and are maintained based on the owner’s circumstances and interests of which we are usually not privy to. So as visitors we are privileged to have the chance to see their gardens and the designer’s work. Thank you Stephen for taking the plunge and asking your garden owner and putting them and yourself out there! Without them and yourself there would be no GDF. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your response, good to hear from someone who has been there too. Showcasing good design in all its variations is vital to the industry and the liveability of urban spaces. Landscape designers can be a timid bunch (myself included). However if we are going to increase the publics understanding of the value of green spaces, designers need to take a leading role and put our insecurity aside. It was a considerable plunge for me, but in the end a very rewarding experience.

  4. I did feel a bit worried about opening a garden to the public, particularly this garden as it is reasonably young and the structure has not yet filled out. However I also think it is important to enjoy every stage of a garden and show people how a garden looks when it is starting out. Hopefully putting an end to the need for instant gardens!
    The garden received a lot of positive comments. The owners we hesitant at first however after the weekend they were so happy with the joy the garden brought to others they said they would be happy to do it again. So perhaps I will open it again in a few years time so people can see the structure more clearly.

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