Gardening: Unbound inspiration when redesigning

Sometimes inspiration for a garden can come from some unlikely sources that can enrich and personalise an individual garden.

At the Singapore Garden Festival, we did a garden called “Tartarus”, based on the Greek mythological figures of the Titans who were banished into the abyss. Sisyphus was condemned to push a large rock up a hill for all eternity, only to see it roll back down daily; Tantalus was punished to stand in a pool of water with fruit tree branches just out of his reach and every time he bent his head to drink, the water level would fall, so again he would remain thirsty; Atlas holds up the heavens and Prometheus is bound!

Obviously in our garden we didn’t have plastic figures literally carrying out these tasks, but with subtle references that may even be unnoticed by the onlooker, the garden had different levels of depth and richness that went towards creating a unified end result. For example, to represent Cronos, who ate his children to prevent the prophecy that Zeus would overthrow him, we used carnivorous plants that are native to Singapore. The iron root that separated the floor plane from the upper plane was representative of Atlas and the twisted nature a nod to Prometheus.

For Tantalus, we had a rock representing his head with glass orange lights hanging down to represent the fruit, in a pool of water. Again, a subtle depiction of a story perhaps not obvious to the visitor.

Tantalus Garden

Often when people are considering what to do with their garden, they think about a flower bed around the outside, some lawn in the inside, and often in this part of the world, a pool stuck somewhere in the middle. These are all valid practical reasons for placing things in certain areas but something we particularly enjoy and like to encourage our clients to do is to add another layer to the garden with the introduction of a raison d’être.

Obviously in the realms of the show gardens like Singapore and Chelsea you can go to extremes with a really creative garden, but equally in a private domestic garden the possibilities are endless.

Most of us have a book, a painting, a sculpture, or even a location that is close to our heart and by using this as stimulation, you can create a garden that has personal references that may be known only to you, but that will undoubtedly improve and strengthen your relationship with your garden. As well, you’ll create an end result that will be more intriguing than the run of the mill solutions.

Using the colour tones or structure of a painting, a subtle map of a location laid over the shape of your garden with a river or road picked out to emphasise a pathway or a sensitive reference to a story, can all be incorporated into a garden design. Of course, subtlety is very important to avoid the “Disney” effect but you’ll be more enthusiastic about your garden if there is a personal resonance within it.

And don’t forget, now is when you should be thinking about that redesign, in time for all the essential autumnal planting to avoid having to irrigate, and reduce costs ensuring you get the maximum effect for your budget. So get your creative heads on and get designing – or give us a call.

For more information about Singapore or any of the gardens we’ve designed, please visit our website www.scapedesign.com

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