Once again the USA, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and Malaysia were all represented this year at the prestigious Gardening World Cup held annually in Nagasaki, Japan. It’s a careful selection of the world’s best and most ‘out of the box’ designers, coming together to show what magic they can create given a strict budget and a theme, which was to display ‘World Peace’.
The competition was tough, and I had only 5 days to go from zero to, well, a garden that will tell a emotional story just by looking at it, and no explanation given.
It was a particularly interesting build-up this year when mother nature decided to throw a major curveball in the middle of the build-up, in the form of a massive typhoon. Most gardens were more than halfway done and had to be quickly wrapped up and strapped down. The plants, features and furniture were hurriedly whisked away to safety and then the designers were summoned away from site to head back to the safety of the hotel. With some extra strong G&Ts in the bar, there we stayed for a day watching the leaves, twigs, and the occasional crow fly past in a very undignified manner.
We all woke up early the following morning to do some damage assessment. Luckily our fears had not come true as the site was mostly intact, so with just a couple of adjustments off we went. The only negative was that we lost a day of construction, so we had to work through the night to catch up.
The gardens this year was of exceptional quality and blew me away with the impeccable construction and attention to detail.
My garden was called ‘Breaking free’ and depicted South Africa’s peaceful transition from minority rule to the democracy we have today. The 9 panels represented the confinement of Robben Island and also the 9 provinces in South Africa that broke free from oppression, with the vertically greened back of the panels representing renewed growth for all the people. The corrugated front panels were decorated in the colorful ‘shack-chic’ style. Three koedoe sculptures also jump out of the garden depicting our natural beauty that we now share with the world.
To find South African plants in Japan is like trying to find freshwater lakes in the Sahara. So in order to achieve the African feel in the garden, I had to improvise and go scouting for plants that would give me similar textures, color and a uniquely African feel. That effort took much longer than I thought, but worth it in winning Gold and Best in Show Home Garden.
When doing international shows it is like being reunited with family. You get to know your co-designers well, and you become good friends, although we compete against each other.
Some of the other gardens on display were:
The United States was represented by the very talented Michael Petrie whose fantasy garden called ‘Finding Peace’ took me back to Alice in Wonderland, where you have blue trees and pink rocks, massive abstract sculptures, colorful pathways and can expect weird creatures to pop out anywhere at anytime. Michael was awarded a Silver medal.
France was represented by one of my personal design heroes, James Basson, who also won Best Fresh Garden at Chelsea this year. His creations are always unique, with a deeper meaning that makes you connect with the garden on so many levels. This year he build a garden called ‘Ad infinitum’ and it was a unique garden emerging through water. You entered the garden on a floating pathway that had a central meeting point in the middle, and there were curtains of willow tree branches that wrapped you up in a duvet of bright green leaves. James was awarded a Silver medal.
Paul Hervey-Brookes from the UK won the Best Planting Award and also Gold for his ‘What are we’ garden that was just pure heaven to look at. The garden had 2 sections divided by a camellia hedge. One section had a colorful mixed planting with dahlias as the main entry, and in-between the planting a few bee hives as features. The other side had cool colors, alongside a long lawned area that ended up in a pebble and stone seating area.
New Zealand had 2 representatives this year in the show garden category – the well known Xanthe White and, in the Home Garden category, the upcoming gardening hero and my good friend Bayley LuuTomes who also created the magnificent colorful rooftop garden at this year’s Ellersie Flower Show.
Xanthe White’s garden called ‘Arcadia’ was a masterpiece, where you entered the garden through a slick modern wooden veranda, with vertical gardens inside. Taking a seat inside the veranda you stare into the back garden which consisted of a lush natural planting and rock-face waterfall. Xanthe was awarded a Silver medal.
Bayley LuuTomes always has bright modern ‘out the box’ ideas, and again he created a show-stopper garden, made out of recycled wine bottles. The garden ‘Glass bottle sanctuary’ was a spiral of wine bottles with colored water matching the colorful planting surrounding the glass spiral. The top row of bottles had water flowing from bottle to bottle to create a water feature that made you stop in your tracks. When entering his sanctuary you find a decked seating area and fire pit – peaceful – with only the sound of water trickling through the bottles and the cacophony of color and light dancing around you through the glass. The garden was awarded a Silver medal.
The winning main show garden was from Singapore, called ‘Timeless tropical – peace with nature’ designed by John Tan and Raymond Toh. This tropical paradise was a hit with everybody who saw it. It had stunning lighting effects and a wire sculpture of a woman kneeling in front of a pond. The seating area was a white lotus flower shaped canopy which brought a luxurious feel to the garden, and the garden was vibrant and had a fresh and cool feel to it.
Lim In Chong of Malaysia created a Gold award Home Garden this year with a very fitting name called ‘Introspection’ that was like nothing I have ever seen before. His garden was closed on all sides with only a couple of small openings where you could enter and and view the garden. All the screens were made out of bamboo, with a bamboo water feature flowing from one corner to the next.
Youngja Lee & Abryung Chul Lee from South Korea created the garden called ‘A journey to a rest’ which had the most spectacular stone work, creating the feeling that you walked all the way up a mountain to a sanctuary where inner peace could be found.
Japan is always represented by a number of installations that depicts the fine art of creating Japanese gardens, where the well known Japanese gardener Ishihara won Gold this year.
The gardening world cup is a show that has grown tremendously over the last 4 years, and has about 60,000 visitors enjoying the gardens. It offers, together with all the gardens, a range of other activities, like a massive rare plant display, with plants collected by the plant hunter from all around the world, amazing ikebana displays and flower arranging contests.
It is a show growing in leaps and bounds, and a very popular event for international designers to want to compete in.