Landscape, News

Landscape Architects Design Climate Catastrophe Garden Exhibition

A show garden by AKAS Landscape Architecture and Nrth Landscapes at the 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show aims to provoke action on the climate emergency.

AKAS Landscape Architecture and Nrth Landscapes’ installation at the 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show has been and gone, but its comment on climate action remains as important as ever.

Decaying and inhabitable, a wreckage of a suburban home sinks slowly into marshland surrounded by a dense entanglement of vegetation and overgrown foliage. The cause is unknown, but likely scenarios point to flooding or rising sea levels – a symptom of our climate’s tragic response to global warming and a message AKAS and Nrth Landscapes explored at this year’s Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.  

The installation, titled Coming Soon is part-garden, part-construction site. Less a manicured exercise in horticultural excellence and more a comment on the kind of scenes we are likely to encounter in a post-apocalyptic world, where a climate catastrophe has brought upon the end of human civilisation and the natural world has been left to repopulate into a forest of self-seeded garden escapers. 

While the exhibit was originally planned for the 2020 show, after COVID-related delays and a season of unprecedented flooding in northern NSW and Queensland, the installation is as relevant (if not more so) as ever.  

The eerie scene depicts the corner of a weatherboard cottage submerged over a natural pond, tilted over a pile of bluestone rubble – volcanic basalt, used for its prominence as the bedrock of Melbourne’s lava plains in the north and west. Plants and shrubbery obscure the remnants of the home, carefully crafted to appear as if they’ve been left to spread and bloom unattended for decades. Natives and endemic species, as well as exotic plants, were chosen for the installation to indicate how abandoned house plants would find their way into the natural landscape, mixing and cross-pollinating with indigenous species to create a new and unique ecology without the presence or human intervention.  

Trees such as silver dollar gum (Eucalyptus cinerea), gingko (Ginkgo biloba) and coastal tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) were spread thickly over typical council-approved shrubs and grasses like lomandra (Lomandra longifolia) and miscanthus (Miscanthus oligostachyus). Shade-loving carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans) and native Australian violets (Viola hederacea) border the area and join a modicum of old-fashioned plantings like ginger lily (Hedychium gardnerianum) and lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina). 

Nrth Landscaping created the new-old home using boards coated in lanolin and painted impatiently without waiting for layers to dry, which is the opposite of best-practice - its effect adding to the project’s authenticity. Adding to the dilapidated scene was the inclusion of salvaged corrugated iron roofing and a rotting sash window, haphazardly formed using recycled rusty nails and a deliberate lack of uniformity. 

A neon pink sign displays the text “2.6 billion square metres” at the garden’s front, with its number referring to the global rate of deforestation, an alarming 2.6 billion square metres over the five-day show period, or the equivalent of a football field of forest every second.  

As AKAS co-director Alistair Kilpatrick remarks regarding the thought-provoking subject matter, “If we want to actually be able to be here for our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren then we have to go beyond tokenism and beyond sustainability as a marketing tool and start making some radical changes now…We wanted the garden to trigger more of these conversations.” 

Coming Soon was on show at the 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show at Carlton Gardens from 30 March to 3 April. 

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