Sunday, September 13, 2009

Australian Landscape Conference

I have just spent an uplifting two days at the Australian Landscape Conference held in Melbourne. This conference has been held every two years since 1989 and I think I've been to every one (bar the very first at which Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto spoke and which people today still speak about in hushed tones). This years conference starred Rosemary Alexander (UK), Nancy Power (US), Josh Byrne (AUS), Stephanie Alexander (AUS), Ed Snodgrass (US), Marta Montero (Argentina), Thomas Wolz (US), Arnaud Maurieres and Eric Ossart (France) and James Broadbent (AUS). Once again it was a fantastic experience to hear from luminaries in the fields of garden design, landscape architecture and horticulture from both home and abroad.
Sometimes you need to stop navel gazing and look outside your own backyard to see what other people are doing. It is also a terrific chance to meet others and mingle/network - call it what you will. Rosemary spoke about current trends, leading designers and the gardens she has been responsible for over the last few decades. She also did a second talk on colour in the garden. Nancy gave us a potted history of garden design in California and a second talk on various Californian gardens. Josh is well known to all Australians for his appearances on Gardening Australia but did you know he is doing his PhD on integrated water systems for sustainable urban use?! Stephanie is known as a fantastic cook but she is also the instigator for a program that delivers the art of growing vegetables (and cooking them) to primary aged children across the country. Ed is the green roof king in the US and he spoke about his projects and how a green roof actually works. Marta spent many years working with the legendary landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx in Brazil. Thomas Wolz is a landscape architect involved in some of the biggest projects I have ever seen in both his home country of the US and in New Zealand. Maurieres and Ossart are two guys who spent nearly a decade designing gardens in France and then moved to Morocco for fresh inspiration! After having lived there for a decade they are now considering Mexico! James is described as a cultural historian and he gave a lyrical plea for gardens considered 'the small, the old and the ordinary'. He certainly had a way with words!
Gardening can become an inward looking obsession (which the internet and gardening blogs now go some way to alleviate) but there is no substitute for the face to face contact with other keen gardeners and the leading lights of our various disciplines. I had a great time, learnt a lot and look forward to the next conference which will hopefully be in 2011.

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