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Garden Design

Gardens at the 2012 Gardening World Cup

Leon Kluge

Leon Kluge

October 8, 2012

What an amazing Gardening World Cup 2012! Held annually in Nagasaki, Japan, it has been a show of unprecedented standard this year, with designers showing off their individual styles with gardens that will even make the most experienced landscaper stand back and say, “Wow, now I haven’t thought of that yet!” The gardens all had the same theme, which was WORLD PEACE, and each garden portrayed that theme in a individual way, making each garden completely different from the next.

This year Spain joined the show, and Gabino Carballo showed us why Spain is so colourfull, and ‘out of the box’ when it comes to design, with his portrayel of safety and danger in the form of a dragon giving shape to his garden.


One of this decade’s best garden designers (also a twice gold award winning designer at Chelsea) is the one and only Jihae Hwang of South Korea. Now when you hear that she is going to be at the same show as you, well then you definitely start worrying, as she is amazing in her deep thinking designs and the attention to detail is extremely thorough. Her garden portrayed the basket of a mother and her family overcoming the difficulties to survive in this tough world.

New Zealand’s Xanthe White created a garden that oozes lush tropical plantings surrounded by vertical walls that gave the whole garden a cool moist feel. During the show we had heat like I have never experienced here in Africa, so when some of the designers were on their last gasp of energy in that unforgiving sun, we just had to sit and relax in her tropical garden for a while and would soon feel regenerated and ready for another session in the sun.

The winner of this year’s show was Lim In Chong from Malaysia who showcased a Middle Eastern styled garden. There are very few designers that I know off that can put plants together looking as natural as can be, like Lim can. He portrayed life’s hardship on one side of the garden, and then the journey to get through it, eventually arriving at paradise.

Also very exciting for everybody was that France joined the show this year, teaching us all about good food, good wine and giving tips on how to charm the ladies. But James Basson‘s design took my and the rest of the designers’ breath away. The design was based on a picture taken from a bombed house in Afghanistan, and then how life came back to the site of devastation.

Japan had 3 entries this year. The first garden was done by the very famous traditional Japanese garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara, who had a garden that made even me convert to wanting to have a bonsai on the African savanna. He makes use of mostly moss on his vertical gardens, and lots and lots of waterfalls. Luckily the restrooms were close by, having had to work next to his waterfalls all the time.

Hiromu Terashita designed a garden that portrayed the ruines of an ancient civilization, that was now re-occupied by nature, what really impressed me was his extremely neat site, MY WORD! My site looked like a disaster area compared to his.

What I love most about international shows is the friends you make; the American team was definitely no exception and was such a lot of fun having around this year. The designer Karen Stefonick created a waterwall garden that took you to a magical water and light show experience.

Karen Stefonick’s garden from USA

The Gardening World Cup is definitely growing a lot in popularity, where an astounding number of the Japanese public come from afar to see the gardens on display at the Huis ten Bosch Palace in Nagasaki.

Well done to all my fellow designers. It was a true honour working with you, and I learned such a lot again, filling my head full of new ideas to take back to Africa.

[Editor – The photos below shows Leon Kluge & David Davidson’s stunning South African garden about which he has modestly said nothing!]


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Peta Trahar
10 years ago

Leon’s post is one of the most interesting I’ve read for a while. I hadn’t heard of many of the designers and their ideas are so fresh. Food for thought!

Peta Trahar

10 years ago

Dear Leon, thank you for your nice post and kind words! Your garden was first class in concept and execution and I hope to catch up again with you to see you winning gold!
All the best,

10 years ago

I loved the Korean garden and the Japanese moss garden. Such beautifully natural gardens emerging from created landscaping. THAT is why I study it 🙂

anne latreille
anne latreille
10 years ago

great read, Leon, & great pix as well. Congratulations! Really shows the scope that gardens can have.

Wouter Kruidenier
10 years ago

Leon jul tuin was wraggies mooi! Dit het beslis stof in almal se oe geskop!! Geluk aan jou en David en almal verder wat deel was van die span !

Catherine Stewart
10 years ago

I love the sense of camaraderie that you talk about among the designers. It pains a very positive picture of the competition – that it’s as much about admiring and learning from each other as it is hoping to win that coveted cup.

10 years ago

Hey Leon

How the blo#@y hell did you mount those trunks.

They look sooo good.