The 2014 show is the largest in Ellerslie history with 20 exhibition (outdoor) gardens, eight student courtyards, eight school gardens (a new category), four flower beds and nine marquee gardens, plus a marquee of floral art.
Prizewinners: Only two golds awarded to exhibition gardens, while four were awarded in the schools category! The supreme award went to ‘Burn after Reeding’ by Christchurch Botanic Gardens, another of the team’s trademark unusual “gardens” (they also took the supreme award in 2010 for a fungus and moss garden). “High on horticulture, sculpture and drama with a strong and clever concept,” says chief judge Andy Sturgeon of the UK.
Trends: Vertical gardens … among them, St Alban’s Catholic School reused plastic milkbottles as planters, student designer Leigh Nicholson had “hanging gardens” (lengths of material with pouches), Ben Hoyle had curving planted walls (unfortunately, the plants hadn’t taken off), Will Morrison (Urban Paving) had walls densely planted in horizontal stripes of orangeberry and the native groundcover Acaena inermis Purpurea, and Natural Habitats had walls of grasses in vertical stripes.
Brickbats: Underplanted gardens such as Jade Temepara’s “food forest” (but as she was due to give birth to her fifth child on Wednesday Ellerslie may have been a project too far). I can’t help but compare her effort to that of Incredible Edibles in 2010 as both were presenting edible gardens. The earlier garden had style, flair and filled its space. This week’s garden had more mulch than plants, and too-small plants.
“Gardens” that are more about hard landscaping than plants. Not having a food stop (that I could find) for mid-afternoon on media day. The designers who weren’t available to be spoken to (most of them!) once the awards had been handed out.
Bouquets: The designers who really think about their concept – gold winner Emily McEwan (step outside your comfort zone), bronze winner Kevin Gillespie (the centenary of the start of World War 1). The designers who use interesting plants (please, no more petunias). Fun touches such as the tuba water feature in Chisnallwood Intermediate School’s garden, and the old gumboots used as planters by the Canterbury Community Gardens Association. Feeding the media!
Hurdles: The gardeners had to keep their plants alive in blistering 33 degree heat on February 22 and save them from the ravages of hail on February 23!
Perennial moan: Why is floral art always so hard to photograph? Too high, too wide, one bit here and one bit there. Hard to do it justice. (I have just read that the judging panel was split over the supreme award, between Burn after Reeding and the floral art pictured above by Laura McKenzie. It would have been an interesting decision if it had gone Laura’s way.)
Text & photos copyright Sandra Simpson – they may not be reused without permission.