My Favourite Window

March 10, 2012

Ellerslie International Flower Show 2012

                                                                                                    Flower pot decorated and planted by The Court Theatre

Jeneane 'It's All Theatre.'

This inscription - by Richard Nunns, my influential 6th Form English Teacher - in a copy of Thomas Pynchon's 'Gravity's Rainbow', springs to mind quite often these days.  It seems to me that a sense of theatre enbables us to deal with the tragic, the absurd, the surreal in our lives. Lately real life has delivered almost more drama than we can bear, yet without the staged version to reflect our condition back to us, we would be reduced to apocalyptic scavengers.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens  El Templo de Bloom

This year, exhibitors drew deeply on the dark and damaged places of our spirit with references to death and destruction weaving through ideas of Hope and Regeneration.

Central flame and comfort in the floating She Loves Me She Loves Me Not

Ellerslie International Flower Show is as surely theatrical as any stage production, and with its own Earthquake story to tell: having been in set-up mode last year, the marquees and open space of North Hagley Park provided a natural emergency site for City refugees on February 22nd. The Show itself was cancelled.  This year the escapism and indulgence of a Flower Show is tempered by the sounds of demolition from the Red Zone, and the inevitable theme of Recovery.

Lime-loving Marlborough Rock Daisy amongst salvaged stone in Transitions

The response of designers to the ongoing earthquakes has - for me - given this Show the relevance to Canterbury that it appeared to lack in its first couple of years here (2oo9-2010).
The struggle to match it to its Autumn timing seems irrelevant now.  There are more important considerations at play. These have been treated with humour

Pop-up Pot Plant Stand from Moveable Feast

Traffic cone planters, and graffiti in Love (in) Your Garden


Emergency supp;y 'anther' in Love (in) Your Garden

and reverence.

Fresh Start

In gardens like Dan Rutherford's moving Fresh Start and Ben Hoyle's fantasy, She Loves Me She Loves Me Not,

we see the bricks and masonry of buildings we knew and loved

being re-modelled for the Future.

In spite of the source of inspiration for so many designs, there is an overall lightness of approach to the conditions the earthquakes have imposed upon us: a feeling that we can be brave, experimental, transitory with space and gardens because they need to be our solace even as we understand they may not last long.

A theme that has naturally sprung from post-earthquake conditions is the acceptance of wilderness - and followers of Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden will know how I feel about wilderness. Here the dried-up, unmanaged, lake bed has been brought into service for displaying sculpture.

Colin Muerk's intelligent use of plant material in Transitions produced a little piece of truly wild Canterbury lightly touched by man.

Not all of the designs were obviously Earthquake influenced.

Max's Pipe Dream, was artfully juxtoposed opposite Transitions. It celebrates not only Canterbury's high country landscape but its modification by man: drawing together elements of hydro-electric dam construction and the contentious but lovely combination of introduced and native species.  This garden has a mystique for me because if my parents had made a different choice within weeks of our immigration in 1962 I would have been a child of this landscape. Max's Pipe Dream won the Show's Supreme Award for its designer, Paul Roper-Gee.

 Although I prefer to 'do' the Show on my own, I enjoy coming across friends and people-watching, or more precisely, people listening. The most vocal comments always seem to be on the negative side and faced with a thoughtful or challenging design there will always be an observer who prefers 'flowers' and 'pretty.'
Flowers and Pretty are my stock in trade and how I came to be part of an exhibiting team in 2009.

Visit Waimakariri Flower Bed 2009

So I certainly enjoy seeing artful floristry

The Quintessential Kimono

Wearable art...
Jenny Gillies clematis costume

But pretty flowers are easy to like and I like food for thought.

Jenny Gillies earwig detail

I particularly enjoyed:

the playful malice of
with its bloodied fountain and my favourite X-rated Amorphophallus konjac - an imaginative way for the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to present its hothouse treasures:

Love (in) Your Garden
for its fanciful interpretation of Quake angst and serene, cohesive planting of Phacelia tanecetifolia:

She Loves Me She Loves Me Not for its fantasy retreat into the heart of the lotus:

Max's Pipe Dream for its manliness:

Transitions for its intelligence, and likeness to a little place in my own garden:

but the garden that moved me to tears was Fresh Start
by Dan Rutherford in collaboration with Andrew Frazer.
This installation featured in the Starlight Marquee and incorporated light and sound. The banality of urban noise mixed with bellbird song plays as a soundtrack, while 24 hours in a day, filmed from above the city, unfolds on the banners. The garden constructed from earthquake rubble and timber, is planted with masses of elegant native plants reclaiming the ruins and representing our human recovery. The starry lighting represents the international visitors who came to help in our time of need.
And with one last visit to Fresh Start I completed my visit to the Theatre that is this year's Ellerslie International Flower Show.

1 comment:

The Sagittarian said...

I didn't go to this, but many years ago I took my mum to Auckland to see it. Amazingly creative.