Designing with Nature: The 2018 Australian Landscape Conference

Calling all landscape designers, garden lovers and general thinkers! The Australian Landscape Conference (ALC) is returning to Melbourne this March and it’s going to be a ripper. Headlined by an extraordinary group of speakers including Andy Sturgeon, Kathryn Gustafson, Dr Noel Kingsbury, Kate Cullity, Miguel Urquijo, Sam Cox, Bernard Trainor and Cassian Schmidt, this year’s theme of Design with Nature: Reconnecting People and Place will explore the tangible and intangible benefits of engaging with nature in an increasingly urbanised society.

Taking place over five days from March 23 – 27, the conference includes visits to some of Victoria’s most exciting private gardens, intensive workshops with leading industry figures such as celebrated photographer Claire Takacs and Green Roof expert Ed Snodgrass, and two jam-packed days of presentations from an outstanding group of international speakers. Find out more about each of the presenters and their design practice, plant passions and thoughts about people and place below. Stay tuned, too, for some more in-depth profiles of these talented individuals over the next few weeks. See you at the conference!

Image supplied by Andy Sturgeon

Andy Sturgeon
Andy Sturgeon is an award-winning UK garden designer, broadcaster, author and journalist. Admired for his multicultural approach to garden and planting design, Andy’s landscapes are a fusion of traditional materials, contemporary architecture and sculptural elements.

“Fundamentally, a garden must have a heart and soul. There are plenty of cool gardens adorning the pages of magazines that are compiled like stage sets to be seen from one angle but not ventured into, with everything arranged around the edge like shy kids at a school disco,” Andy says. “For me, a garden must embrace you. There should be a sense of discovery and exploration.”

Image supplied by Dr Noel Kingsbury

Dr Noel Kingsbury
Internationally renowned writer, lecturer and planting design consultant, Dr Noel Kingsbury is an authority on naturalistic and ecological approaches to planting design. Noel is passionate that gardening is a gateway to the higher intellectual world and has written over 25 books including co-authorships with the celebrated Dutch master of perennial planting, Piet Oudolf.

“Gardening as a cultural activity says something about the relationship between the human condition and the natural world,” says Noel. “Garden making and landscape designing is about creating and managing the environment where we live. That’s a very political statement which raises all sorts of philosophical questions about our world.”

Image supplied by Dr Kate Cullity

Dr Kate Cullity
A founding director of the leading Australian landscape architecture firm, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Dr Kate Cullity is an internationally esteemed architect and environmental artist whose projects explore the nexus between public and private space, beauty, care and sustainability. Kate’s designs are hybrid blends of contemporary art, botany, the landscape and urban design.

“My favourite subjects at school were biology and art. I loved looking down the microscope into another world, one of beautiful patterns and connections. I particularly liked drawing the stylised images of plants and animals as seen through the microscope,” says Kate. “I went onto study biological sciences at UWA and this has been a driving creative force in my later profession as a landscape architect.”

Image supplied by Kathryn Gustafson

Kathryn Gustafson
Crowned the Grand Dame of modern landscape architecture, Kathryn Gustafson is celebrated for her ground-breaking contemporary designs that engage the visceral experience, challenging the role and meaning of the landscape. With an array of award-winning masterpieces under her belt, including the Diana Princess of Wales Fountain in London and Jardins de l’Imaginaire in France, Kathryn’s works are poetic explorations of the human experience of landscape.

“Often what is familiar, comfortable and exciting all stems from memory. Much of our work involves memory – finding the relationships that are evocative of something,” says Kathryn. “I did a garden in England where I used all the plants that were ‘grandmother plants’ – plants people grew up with, things that were grown everywhere. Putting them together was like walking down memory lane. All of a sudden, the garden wasn’t cold, wasn’t foreign. It was put together in a completely contemporary way. It was completely new, but felt connected.”

Image supplied by Miguel Urquijo

Miguel Urquijo
Spanish garden designer Miguel Urquijo is an expert on landscaping for Mediterranean and semi- arid climates. Through his work, Miguel has developed hardy plant combinations that build definition within the garden and provide year-long interest. Modelled on the native eco-systems found in Indigenous landscapes, his ecological approach to garden design incorporates sustainable planting that is beneficial for people, wildlife and natural environments.

“There is something deep and not so easy to perceive which probably requires not only professionalism but also some sensitivity: to build a garden that instils peace, tranquillity and pleasant sensations we must use native plants and materials as much as possible,” says Miguel. “Both the cultural and natural elements must be valued if we are to give a feeling of integration, of belonging to the place.”

Image supplied by Bernard Trainor

Bernard Trainor
Originally from the Mornington Peninsula, Australian born Bernard Trainor relocated to the USA in 1995 to capture the wild soul of California. Bernard creates technical and artistic gardens in harmony with the complexity of the landscape and the people who are occupying it. A returning favourite to the ALC program, Bernard is known for his restrained yet bold award-winning designs and laid-back charm.

“The Californian landscape is so, so diverse – from East to West and even more so from North to South,” says Bernard. “There are coastal regions here that have ingredients that create a flavour of the Mornington Peninsula. I think the authenticity is so potent both here and there. Both landscapes are essential, and thus for me, both are beautiful.”

Image supplied by Cassian Schmidt

Cassian Schmidt
Considered THE perennial master at the forefront of the New German and Dutch Wave movement, Cassian Schmidt is an exceptional garden designer, revered for his seamless combinations of perennials and grasses. The Director of the world-renowned research garden, Hermannshof, Cassian’s role includes developing low maintenance and sustainable plant combinations using natural plant communities.

“In my design of naturalistic landscapes, I use broad, painterly drifts of hardworking plants, so well suited to their sites that they provide year-round interest but require less maintenance than traditional mixed borders,” says Cassian. “The dynamic mix of unique perennials and naturalistic grasses are always arranged by habitat and origin – woods, prairie, steppe, pond edge, dry meadow – which creates a kaleidoscope that is inspired by nature, without replicating it.”

Image by Claire Takacs, commissioned by Australian House and Garden magazine.

Sam Cox
Australian landscape designer Sam Cox began his tutelage under the esteemed late Gordon Ford, where he learned a hands-on approach to garden design that incorporates layered plantings, rock placement and earth shaping. These days, Sam is a leading figure in the Australian garden scene, continuing the legacy of wild style Australian gardens pioneered by Gordon, Edna Walling and Ellis Stones.

“My approach to planting in the Australian landscape is one of continuity. The idea of naturalism is to emulate a natural setting – plantings should be sensitive to the region e.g. coastal, inland or mountainside,” says Sam. “With the shifting nature of our climate, it is important to use plants that are resilient to change.”

The Australian Landscape Conference is taking place in Melbourne from the 23rd – 27th March, 2018. Don’t miss out on attending this brilliant event – find out more information or book your tickets here.

Image in header by Claire Takacs