Tag Archives: garden decoration

Despatches from Heroic Garden Festival 3: Gaudi-esque meets Hollywood glam

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I find garden ornamentation a source of slightly masochistic fascination. We prefer very little ornamentation in our own garden and even then lean to the natural look. Back when we were university students – way back when – we used to entertain friends and visitors with gnome garden tours as viewable from the streets of both Palmerston North and Dunedin. Caversham was a particularly happy hunting ground. But brightly painted little concrete things in my own garden? I think not.

I have been gently pondering the notion of the crossover from heavily ornamented gardens to folk art and it was with this in mind that I made a point of searching out a particular garden in the Heroic Garden Festival last weekend. It promised a “Gaudi-inspired” house with a garden that “exudes Hollywood glam with a hint of the unexpected”.
It wasn’t folk art. Not at all. Nor was it particularly heavily ornamented, at least not compared to some others. It had panache – not necessarily easy to achieve in a garden with a kidney-shaped pool, an Astroturf lawn and a lot of solid colour. It did evoke the spirit of Hollywood glam in suburban Auckland but with a wry sense of poking fun at itself.

???????????????????????????????The plantings were fine, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. The Heroic Garden Festival, for those who don’t know, has its roots in the Auckland gay scene. Gay men, as far as I can see. I have yet to fathom why gay men are such a powerful force in gardening whereas gay women have not made their mark in the same way. There appears to be a secret rule book that says that gay men in Auckland should create tropical gardens (the Ubud hotel-style, I have described it in the past) dominated by bromeliads, palms, cycads, the tractor seat ligularia (L. reniformis), bromeliads, maybe a banana palm. Oh, and have I mentioned bromeliads? After you have been to several gardens, the plantings start to meld in the mind and achieve a certain state of uniformity.

It is how the whole package fits together that stays in the mind – the design, the extension of indoor living to the garden outside, the style and ambience and the attention to detail.???????????????????????????????
This Castor Bay garden had its own unique style. The tone was set by a white gnome in a glass dome giving you the finger as you arrived. I laughed. The first tulip lamp I encountered was bright orange and I am sure the vulgar orange celosias in the nearby bed were entirely deliberate. Further round was a bright pink lamp set against a terracotta wall. There were some brave calls made, contrasting with more restrained accents.
???????????????????????????????I don’t know much at all about Gaudi and Catalan modernism is beyond my ken. Certainly there was a northern Spanish arts and crafts ambience to the house which was charming. The borrowed view to the sea was also a clever device which did not appear as if it could be built out.

It is always refreshing to look at gardens which bear no resemblance at all to one’s own. Some folk say they go garden visiting to glean ideas for their own place. I like being challenged and entertained whether or not it has any application to my own garden. This whole garden made me smile. All credit to the owners, Aaron Hill and Troy Little.

Garden decoration 2: contemporary colour and bold statements

A few weeks ago, I looked at a selection of somewhat subtle garden ornamentation, understated even. Returning to the topic today, it is some more colourful statements that have caught my attention.
???????????????????????????????1) The box with its flat planes of colour is by Coromandel-resident artist Michael Smither and has found its permanent home at Puketarata Garden near Hawera. It has echoes of a child’s play house but the simplicity is deceptive. So too is the placement. It becomes the absolute centre of attention in the middle ground but is also successful in drawing the eye to the large landscape beyond.
???????????????????????????????2) In a similar vein, the whimsical pavilion created by garden owner, Clive Higgie at Paloma Garden near Whanganui makes an undeniable statement as a focal point in an otherwise natural environment. The reflection is an integral part of the picture. As with the Smither box, it is the combination of a vibrant creation with thoughtful placement which makes this a successful installation. What appears to be a blue ceramic ball topping the roof is arguably the best use I have seen of one of these mass produced decorative items.
???????????????????????????????3) The freestanding, two dimensional yellow cow was on temporary display in our garden, the work of Joep from Arttoi (www.arttoi.co.nz) so we won’t mention the placement. The gentleman in the very purple jersey posed so willingly, adding a certain ambience, I felt. The cow may or may not be to your personal taste (I would have preferred it without the map of New Zealand). The purple jersey, the man’s wife told me, had been found in a skip and became an instant favourite for the wearer. Each to their own.
???????????????????????????????4) At the same temporary installation of Joep’s work, the stainless steel sculptures were beautifully executed and caught my fancy. The reflective qualities of the highly polished stainless steel were a great deal more subtle than a garden mirror. While there is a tendency to put this type of work in a hard-edged, minimalist, modern garden, I admit I was surprised by how well they fitted in to our own setting which is anything but that. We placed them in positions with relatively plain backgrounds where they could star and the reflections made it a two way interaction with their surroundings.
???????????????????????????????5) While not keen on reproduction classical statuary in a New Zealand garden context, these modern interpretations made me smile. In a very family-oriented garden, they fitted thematically. The frozen moment in time captured with the balance of their poses gave the contrast of tension with the subtle placement against the nikau palms. I could see these ageing gracefully down the decades.
006 insert - Copy - Copy6) When out and about garden visiting in spring and I could not help but notice a plethora of parking meters as garden ornaments. I am sure this was a result of the market being flooded with old meters in this particular area, which had moved to an electronic sensor parking system. The customised triple meter installation was perhaps more witty and striking than those single ones which had simply been placed as a relic of the past decade.

First printed in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.