The Singapore Garden Festival is becoming one of the must-see garden events in the world.
As the only international flower show in the tropics, its ability to attract the world's best designers has seen it deliver a spectacular visitor experience, firmly securing its place in the top five garden shows.
The biennial show last month was the fourth since its inception and by far the best. It attracted 39 internationally acclaimed designers, including first-time entries from the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia, as well as some very talented local designers.
It was at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, with the fourth floor featuring the floral, orchard and community garden displays and the sixth floor covering 2000sqm and some incredible gardens.
DISPLAYS TO DELIGHT:
There were two categories of display gardens: landscape and fantasy.
British designers have always done well here and entered two stunning gardens this year. Andy Sturgeon, a multiple award-winning Chelsea Flower Show designer, presented an entry that was effectively the quintessential modern contemporary garden. The message he presented was that man can make an intervention with Mother Nature but he can't conquer her.
Sarah Eberle was making her first appearance in the show, and has also won multiple awards at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Her display garden, titled Continental Drift, depicted the tectonic plates pushing against each other. Plants on the top plate, those closest to sun and heat, were those able to adapt to that extreme and the ones at the lowest levels were lush and moist, cooler plants. This was really clever and the longer I stood admiring the design, the more I got what she had set out to achieve.
Andrew Seccull is an Australian designer who has won his fair share of awards and now has gold from Singapore to add to the list.
Every display garden of his is unique.
Mazu Garden was entered in the fantasy category and named after the goddess of the sea. The use of orchids was stunning and the banyan trees in the heart of the garden provided a kind of ceiling to the universe. It was very surreal and different, one of those designs where you ponder the inspiration and messages behind the design.
Damian Tang is a local who works as part of the national parks team. His fantasy garden, which borrowed elements from many fairytales, was amazing.
It won gold and was also the best in show for the fantasy category - no mean feat considering he soundly beat the best of the best internationally.
What was really clever was the creation of window frames set around the garden, allowing visitors to view different scenes within a bigger picture of the surreal fairytale reality.
Each one depicted different fairytale scenes and subtle hints were left with captions from the tale that suggested which scene it could have been, leaving visitors guessing.
Home gardeners can develop similar clever scenes or gardens with meaning in the same way and I took away so much from this clever garden.
He used an extensive selection of plants, which were somehow mystical. They included a massive olive tree imported from Spain, estimated to be over 1000 years old.
Andy Ellis and Danny Kamo are a couple of Kiwis who won gold last year at the Ellerslie International Flower Show in New Zealand. They were acclaimed internationally for their creativity and earned the invitation to display at Singapore this year.
They created an earth-shaking display featuring incredible artificial rocks, made by the same company that created the gothic film sets for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
This display took things to a whole new level, with audiovisual effects and an earthquake that shook the display, reminding visitors of the recent Christchurch experience.
People gasped as the serenity of a typical mountainous New Zealand natural landscape changed and the display started roaring and shaking.
It's the first time I'd experienced a garden display with a full-blown sound and light show and a moving set. This new dynamic was recognised by the international judging team with gold.
Joe Palimeno, a talented American landscape designer who has won multiple awards at the Philadelphia International Flower Show, created something special with his signature contemporary design style, calling his piece The Modernist Garden.
A classy design with clean edges and sleek lines, this would sit perfectly in most Australians' backyard. The use of locally sourced plants and local materials was most impressive.
Mr Palimeno said his design was inspired by famous landscape architect Robert Royston but I felt the work of Australian/Indonesian designer Made Wijaya was oozing through here.
Its use of water with a pool and lava stone statues was reminiscent of Made's work in the past and its class was recognised with a gold medal.