How to grow The Wrap Up: Australian Garden Show Sydney 2013

The Wrap Up: Australian Garden Show Sydney 2013

On Show: Highlights from AGSS 

Sydney turned on classic early spring weather for the inaugural Australian Garden Show Sydney. We sought shade some days and an extra cardigan on others but while the temperature went up and down the enthusiasm of the garden-loving audience stayed hot all weekend. In the Garden Clinic Emergency Department we spoke to hundreds of gardeners, gave plenty of advice and took the pulse of the event. Our diagnosis – a terrific beginning. Our prognosis – AGSS is bound to become a highlight of Sydney’s spring calendar!


‘September Sky’ was created by English designers Tom Harfleet and Andrew Fisher Tomlin, who were invited to design a garden using only Australian plants. Neither designer had been to Australia before but manage to create a garden that looks so at home in Centennial Park it could have been there for decades. Photo - Robin Powell


‘The Last to Leave’ by Jim Fogarty

You have to be a bit of a horticultural jet-setter to see a lot of Jim Fogarty’s gardens. He’s a master of the show garden circuit - Melbourne, London, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Sydney. For AGSS he paid a tribute to Gallipoli, with a garden called ‘The Last to Leave’. Some visitors found it confronting, but I found it moving and ultimately uplifting.


Photo - Robin Powell

With the centenary of the evacuation of Gallipoli coming up in 2015, Jim used as his inspiration a poem by Private Leon Gellert. There were many allegorical elements within the garden. The battlement-shaped ‘bunker’ which anchored the design referenced the architecture of war and also the cliff face of Gallipoli. (It also reminded me of the tank my grandfather commanded in Papua New Guinea in World War II.) Rusty balls of knotted barbed wire were both sculptural and elegiac; sandstone blocks detailed sandbags and trenches.


Photo - Joslin Hartley Look Fresh Photography

The planting was also inspired, with spots of blood-red bottlebrush and red kangaroo paw among coastal plants like coastal banksia, which served to draw a link between the Gallipoli shore and our own. Hoop pines evoked the lone pine of Gallipoli legend. Jim is a one-man marketing department for designing with Australian plants, inspiring not only local gardeners but those for whom our plants are marvellously exotic. His planting was loose enough to allow his choices space to breathe (a common fault in show gardens is to cram plants in too tight) but close enough to create the poem’s essence:


‘The waves were very old, the trees were wise:

The dead would be remembered evermore-

The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,

And slept in great battalions by the shore.’

Photo - Joslin Hartley Look Fresh Photography

Text: Linda Ross


‘Sydney Gardenesque’ by Myles Baldwin

The huge show garden designed by Myles Baldwin called Sydney Gardenesque was Myles to a 'T': exuberant but restrained; traditional yet risky, familiar but unique. His eclectic mix of old-fashioned natives and exotics managed to be both Sydney 1932 – and Sydney 2013.


Photo - Robin Powell


As the Chair of Judges I was disappointed we were unable to judge this wonderful horticultural and landscape construction. But Myles, with typical integrity, withdrew his Show Garden from competition because of the potential for his role as Curator of the Australian Garden Show Sydney to be perceived as a conflict of interest. That must have been a difficult decision as he and his dedicated team worked extremely hard to build the structure, and then to 'colour it in', with two mature Japanese maples just coming into lacy fresh spring leaf, a huge Magnolia stellata, little balls of Raphiolepsis (Indian Hawthorn), acanthus, variegated Sansevieria (mother- in-law’s tongue), Pieris (Andromeda or lily of the valley shrub), and lots more. Even a buffalo lawn.


Photo - Robin Powell


The garden was on two levels, with steps leading to a compacted gravel terrace from which there were two choices – sit on the deck, or play on the lawn. A buffalo lawn was surrounded by a swirl of garden, while the deck was brilliantly tiled in blue and white patterned tiles, invitingly furnished and backed by a warm sandstone wall.

It seemed to all of us standing in front of this show garden that there was nothing ‘show’ about it. It appeared to be a real garden that belonged to some stylish and fortunate someone’s who happened to be away for the weekend. Myles asked them to share it with 25,000 friends and we felt privileged to do so. Thanks Myles!


Myles Baldwin & Graham Ross. Photo - Robin Powell


Text: Graham Ross


‘Suspended’ by Brendan Moar

Viewers were mesmerized by Brendan Moar’s garden. You could see people standing in front of it and rethinking their definition of what a garden could be. 


Photo - Joslin Hartley Look Fresh Photography

Everything about it challenged Sydney’s typical suburban back yard. For a start it was mostly water. Instead of lawn or paving at ground level, there was water, around which a planting of wonderfully varied shapes and texture formed waves and beaches and dunes. Timber decks like jettys stretched fingers into the water, inviting you to dangle your toes. Above, plants cascaded like waterfalls. Brendan planted Rhipsalis paradoxa into the overhead pergola and it hung down like green bead curtains. The bead-like quality of the plants was accentuated by strings of silver chain that looked like falling water. The whole effect was magical.


Photo - Robin Powell

In the seating area of the garden, a dramatic snake-like silver pipe was planted with flowering and edible plants, forming a very different plant curtain. The round planting holes were echoed in the round leaves of a redbox eucalypt and mirrored once more in the pavers in the gravel path. A little pocket of natives added a blast of colour and a textural softness.

Brendan explained that his aim had been to create a garden that allowed for an immersion in plants. He achieved that sense of immersion with a typically architectural and theatrical response. The garden won the Best in Show award and. the People's Choice. Not bad for a designer creating his first-ever show garden. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next year!


Photo - Joslin Hartley Look Fresh Photography

Text: Robin Powell

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About this article

Author: Linda Ross, Graham Ross, Robin Powell