The smaller the space available for private gardens the grander the public gardens. This seems to be the very pleasing credo of the Singapore government whose spending and commitment to public gardens and green space is inspiring. Just imagine a government closer to home handing over more than 100 hectares of prime waterfront land for public gardens (and an army of workers to maintain it in beautiful condition) instead of, for example, allowing a billionaire to build a big casino.
While the public gardens – and even the street trees – are gorgeous, Singaporeans are also keen home gardeners, albeit in very limited areas. So the locals at the biannual Singapore Garden Festival don’t crowd the Landscape Gardens designed by internationally renowned designers and constructed by local landscapers, like this very do-able design by Adam Frost, with a floating pavilion in a grove of Caesalpnia ferrea, and plantings of yellow and white flowers.
The crowds are at the displays of gardening on a much smaller scale. Like this from the Balcony Gardens section, with a leaf-papered wall featuring a display box of tillandsia and broms, and a hat stand for a really ordinary cap.
More traditional are the crafts of bonsai and penjing. Here’s one of the striking works in the calligraphy section of the bonsai pavilion, all of which were created by local enthusiasts. It is the symbol for happiness, turned upside down. In the same way that Anglo superstitious types would never hang a horseshoe upside down in case the luck falls out, so at Chinese New Year Chinese superstitious types hang symbols for happiness upside down, so as to invite happiness in.
And for those without even a balcony with which to engage with green life, the show offered indoors inspiration, including these begonias in black frames hanging in a lounge room space.
Back outdoors Leon Kluge and Bayley LuuTomes offered a beautiful fantasy of garden living and a message of integrating the natural and man-made worlds. In their small spaces an integration of the natural and the man-made is exactly what Singapore’s garden-lovers aim for. Was it this resonating theme or the garden itself which scored for its designers the People’s Choice Award this year?