Star power for garden

Titled Immersion (above), the garden designed by Jim Fogarty (far left) and Andy Sturgeon (left) won the Gold and Best Construction awards at the Singapore Garden Festival.
Titled Immersion (above), the garden designed by Jim Fogarty and Andy Sturgeon won the Gold and Best Construction awards at the Singapore Garden Festival.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, LIM YAOHUI
Titled Immersion (above), the garden designed by Jim Fogarty (far left) and Andy Sturgeon (left) won the Gold and Best Construction awards at the Singapore Garden Festival.
Titled Immersion, the garden designed by Jim Fogarty (left) and Andy Sturgeon (right) won the Gold and Best Construction awards at the Singapore Garden Festival.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, LIM YAOHUI
On display: The Vanda Valley (above), which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field, with plants such as sunflowers.
On display: The Vanda Valley (above), which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field, with plants such as sunflowers.
On display:The Vanda Valley, which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display (above) by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field, with plants such as sunflowers.
On display:The Vanda Valley, which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display (above) by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field, with plants such as sunflowers.
On display: The Vanda Valley, which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field (above), with plants such as sunflowers.
On display: The Vanda Valley, which features 120 types of plants and a manmade fountain; a Floral Windows to the World display by S.L.Y. Soh from Singapore; and the colourful Flower Field (above), with plants such as sunflowers.

A lush garden inspired by young people's addiction to technology - and the potential for nature to redeem them - has sprung up at The Meadow in Gardens by the Bay.

The garden's centrepiece, a 4.2m-high metallic nest-like structure, was inspired by the shape of rainforest lianas and the shadows leaves cast on trees.

Step inside and the atmosphere is one that fosters contemplation: a drip of water creates ripples in a pool of water, surrounded by a pathway evoking the air of cloisters.

"It's a sanctuary away from all the noise," says British designer Andy Sturgeon, 52, who created the display with Australian landscape designer Jim Fogarty.

Arranged within their 80 sq m garden, which they have called Immersion, are blocks of stone that represent keyboard keys and app icons. The plants used include the tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia), fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), palms (Licuala) and the spider-like Cryptanthus bromeliads.

There is some imagery hidden in the garden - lights in multiples of five representing the five children the two men have between them, and stone cubes arranged at different heights to correspond to their children's ages, which range from eight to 18.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE GARDEN FESTIVAL 2018

  • WHERE: Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive 

    WHEN: Until Aug 3, 10am to 10pm daily (garden festival); 9am to 10pm daily (conservatories) 

    ADMISSION: $12 (weekdays), $16 (weekends) for garden festival and Flower Dome; $20 all days for garden festival and two conservatories. Rates apply to adults who are Singapore residents. Concession rates are available for senior citizens and children 

    INFO: www.singaporegardenfestival.com

The contrast between darker colours and lighter hues of green reflects a "conflict between the bad and good parts of life", says Fogarty.

Their display was completed on Thursday after some bumps in the road, such as when a 7m-tall Sterculia tree - colloquially known as a tropical chestnut tree - shed too many leaves and had to be replaced.

Sturgeon and Fogarty's garden, which they created with local partner Eco-Scape, was one of eight contenders in the Singapore Garden Festival's competitive landscape garden category and won the Gold and Best Construction awards.

Also on display are works by award-winning designers such as Singaporean John Tan, Malaysian landscape designer Inch Lim - who won Best of Show in that category - and Katsuhiko Koga and Kazuhiro Kagae from Japan.

Sturgeon and Fogarty first met at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2004. This is the first time the two award-winning festival stalwarts have teamed up.

"It's put us out of our comfort zones," says Fogarty with a laugh.

"Andy is probably one of the few people in Europe that has developed his own style and tradition... his designs are appealing globally, not endemic to a certain place.

"There's a lot of cloning, copying out there," says Fogarty, with a nod to the rise of social media. "People see a photo and copy it... What's sad is people are losing their unique sense of style."

Sturgeon, meanwhile, admires the use of architectural components in Fogarty's landscaping work. "I've frequently seen him use colours I wouldn't ordinarily use, like black and white."

 
 

Sturgeon, who won Gold Medal and Best in Show at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show two years ago, spoke of some of the challenges the industry faces.

"In the United Kingdom, there's a huge skills shortage. They dropped many horticulture courses and it's difficult to get landscape architects.

"David Cameron made a statement in a speech that gardening should be done by uneducated people and ex-convicts," he says, referring to the former British prime minister.

"But it's a multi-million-dollar industry."

Fogarty, who has been to Singapore many times, adds that he is a fan of the Botanic Gardens and Eco-Link@BKE bridge.

"The thing about Singapore is there is a lot of culture that's told through the gardens. It's important not to lose that cultural identity in design."

Toh Wen Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'Star power for garden'. Print Edition | Subscribe