Saturday, 16 August 2014

Chasing away the Winter Blues – with a Touch of Red

Visitors last weekend compelled me into action.
Readers of this blog will know that most of my plants are eaten by wallabies; in addition, my front path was flanked by a double row of green spheres – Tiny Trev lilly pillies – most shuffling off this mortal coil when (using selective herbicide) we rid the area of Nectosordum, an invasive bulb (don’t buy it!); plus the areas drainage has been mucked up, so the iris foliage has mostly disappeared. All very bleak.
I’d dreamed up painting pumpkins bright red years ago – large ones, with a beautiful shape – so having an empty winter garden (oh, the shame!) and visitors coming were the spur required to do it at last.
There are 10 of them along the 7m path, each spray painted scarlet then lacquered.
Here they are photographed after a week: a little less bright, and mingling with tiny narcissuses which have come out – a little odd, I think; this sort of pop art doesn’t marry well with flowers. Just one or the other, thanks.
I am influenced here by one of my favourite 5 or so designers of the last century, US landscape architect Martha Schwarz, who brought Andy Warhol into the garden, so to speak. I adore her work which came thundering into my consciousness in 1989 at my first landscape design conference. (A garden outside a gene slicing lab where Schwarz spliced 2 garden styles, so the garden was half French Renaissance, half Japanese (and some going up the wall) using astroturf particularly impressed.) She believes that `rules within the art establishment could and should be broken’ and she `wanted to challenge conventional thought and beliefs long before [she] ever knew landscape architecture existed’ (Transfiguration of the Commonplace, 1997).

I don’t warm (ahem) to red in the hot seasons but it can be glorious in the winter garden; just think of those superb follies in Parisian Parc de Villette, huge deconstructed cubes of vermillion, bright against the emerald lawns.

I have no idea how long my bright pumpkins will last but I quite like the idea of having an art installation which is ephemeral, just for cheering up and chasing away the winter blues – with a touch, or more, of red.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

No comments:

Post a Comment