Indeed, friendship is hallmark of the Australian Landscape Conference.
Two of our international speakers — Luciano Giubbilei and Fergus Garrett — have become firm friends through landscape design. Luciano tells the story of how, despite his extraordinary success as a designer of sophisticated London gardens, he felt that his plant knowledge wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Especially in the context of his adopted home, England, where horticultural skill is so esteemed. So, a number of years ago, he telephoned Fergus Garrett, the renowned plantsman, and head gardener at Great Dixter and asked: ‘Can I come and garden with you at Dixter?’ He was aware of Fergus’s reputation as one of the greatest plantsmen of his generation but didn’t know him well and was delighted when the always open-hearted Fergus responded with a resounding yes. The result was a fundamental change in Luciano’s design attitude, which he will be describing to us and a friendship which endures and inspires.
As for Fergus, Great Dixter is a model for inspirational horticultural teaching worldwide, attracting interns and young gardeners from all around the globe. The Dixter method, which involves a meticulous attitude to the aesthetics of planting, is instilled in these individuals, who tend to stay for a year, living on site as part of the close-knit Dixter community. Fergus’s own magnetic personality is a big part of the appeal, as delegates will appreciate on the day, when he imparts his deep insights on the nature and potential of specific plants and combinations.
Many great gardens have been made, of course, as a result of — and in some ways as an expression of — lifelong partnerships. Dan Hinkley will be talking about the slow and careful creation (or ‘natural curation’) of the celebrated garden he has made on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle in the US, in collaboration with his life partner. ‘With the luxury of three years of getting to know the land, its idiosyncratic peculiarities and how the light and shadow interacted with this place throughout the year, [we] formed a relationship of respect for and a basis of knowledge of the land before any major decisions were made.’ Hinkley will talk about considering a garden as a ‘laboratory’ — in this case, for trialling new plant discoveries from around the world, guided by an aesthetic honed over decades of horticultural experimentation: ‘foliage first, height differential, balance, movement, fragrance and seasonality’.
The fundamental importance of human connection, of being in the room together and enjoying each other’s company, has been reinforced in recent years. Understandably, most of us are relishing opportunities to get out there and gather with like-minded people again. The ALC presents an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the leading exponents of landscape design in the world today. Through their talks and Q&A sessions, you’ll find out what inspires and amuses them and even what annoys them. That’s something you can’t get from books, or websites, or even television segments.
We look forward to welcoming you to the ALC — in the spirit of friendships made, minds stimulated, and knowledge shared.