Canada Blooms 2016 – Where do designers get their ideas?

The water garden from Genoscape won four awards at Canada Blooms in 2016: Outstanding Large Garden, Outstanding Use of Water, Best Overall Creativity, and Judge’s Choice for Garden of the Year. It was a standout.

It’s the last day of Canada Blooms 2016. Many exhibitors told me they thought it was the best show in years. So I’m sorry that this is my first post – when you have mere hours to go see for yourselves.

Perhaps I needed time to think about what to take away from it. Plus, over the past week and a half (and longer, if you count the lag between blog posts), paying work has restrained me from the blog.

But now, having reflected on the show, a pattern has emerged: ain’t it wonderful what odd-ball things can inspire ideas! That’s the essence of creative thinking, right? Creative people connect things that haven’t been connected before – or connect them in novel ways. Here are three from Canada Blooms 2016. I hope they’ll turn on Aha! light bulbs over your head, like they did for me.

Peer to the left, at the foot of that fountain pillar by the archway. Can you see a small, light brown pile of rectangles among the greenery? It’s a decorative ball, made of overlapping wooden off-cuts, that Genoscape principal Joe Genovese picked up at Winners and thought: That’s kind of cool. This became the design inspiration for his exhibit. See it reflected in the ball-shaped pergola? That random pattern repeats all through the garden.

Incidentally, the pillar itself is composed of two inverted urns, stacked with a basin on top. See them? Try turning something you use every day (like a plant pot) upside-down or on its side some time. You might surprise yourself with what you can make of it.

The rough wood from the ball turns up in Genoscape’s construction materials. Despite having classical forms, the weathered, lived-in look makes it all feel less formal.

What would you call that overlapping pattern? Whatever it is, it shows up in the domed caps on the structures, and even in the fence. That fence pattern wouldn’t have the structural integrity to keep out intruders but, as a screen, it works beautifully.

I like the curtain of water around the temple, but it would fall straight only in a windless setting like this. Outdoors, you’d need a guide for the water to slide down – a curtain of beads? Suggestions?

Don’t you love this shadow pattern? Granted, when you view it from every angle, you’ll find the “ball” in this pergola is not completely spherical. There’s a definite dent on one side. But it’s the idea that I applaud, not its perfect execution. Perfection is over-rated.
This temple to the use of light and water in a garden begged to be photographed. You could do something like this yourself, stacking three graduated basins on pots, and fastening them together. A roof like this would protect your fountain (and mostly its pump) from stray leaves.

Here’s another idea from an unexpected source. B.SQ. Landscape Architects’ exhibit, called Nest, is an elevated playhouse above a sophisticated deck. The design won Outstanding Small Garden in 2016. And its shape was inspired, believe it or not, by the ostrich-legged AT-ST or All-Terrain Scout Transport thingies from Star Wars. Cool or what?

Constructed of cedar over a supportive steel frame, the playhouse is strong enough to hold three adults. You’ll get a much better look at it here on B.SQ.’s website.

I photographed B.SQ. landscape architect Robert Boltman taking a well-earned break the night before opening day. (Wasn’t fast enough to catch him sliding down the pole a few minutes later.) Boltman showed us the toy AT-ST that was the lightbulb for this concept. This kind of thinking is what you come to a landscape architect for.

Last, let’s look at this small contemporary garden from landscape designer Julie Moore, which won Outstanding Use of Innovative Elements in a Garden. Julie calls it the Stingray Garden, and describes it on her website. The inspiration sprang (sprung? springed? sproinged?) from a stingray-shaped umbrella shade. The colour palette derived from the grey, white and camouflaging turquoise polka-dots of a living stingray. She repeats the stingray shape in her plantings, and the pebbles in her water basin, below.

The goldfish are a fun addition to a stingray-themed garden. Between my comings and goings, they dwindled from three to two, as one leapt off to explore the show. A bright yellow Stingray parked in the drive would add a certain je ne sais quoi to the garden design – and je sais quoi to the budget.

Truthfully, what impressed me about Moore was how well she was able to zig when they couldn’t force the plants she’d specified, putting a definite zag in her plans. They don’t give prizes for last-minute creative zigging, but they should. Most Canada Blooms exhibitors would be contenders.


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