This fairy-tale garden retreat was handmade, brick-by-timber-brick by International landscape designer Bayley LuuTomes, winning him a Bronze medal and delighting thousands of visitors to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) this year.
Not one to create a run-of-the-mill garden experience, Bayley fell in love with a 130-year-old golden elm tree when he visited Carlton Gardens for inspiration at the beginning of his design process. "People have to stop looking g at their phones and start looking up," he thought as he encountered the tree’s enormous boughs stretching skyward and sweeping downwards to almost touch the ground beneath.
"Wow! How can I capture this?" Bayley thought, his question answered shortly afterwards in the simple act of sitting down against the trunk and looking up under the canopy above him.
"People have to stop looking at their phones and start looking up," he thought as he set about creating an immersive, contemplative experience of nature. The design concept was originally born as a beehive, “But bee hives are a hub of activity and business - cocoon was a better fit," says Bayley.
Pushing the boundaries of design when creating his garden was key for Bayley. “I don't expect to go to a fashion show and see what was worn last year," he says. "This garden is all about discovery."
Half stained, half left natural for a stunning visual effect, each treated pine block measures 400x100x200mm and was handmade by Bayley - cutting and sanding each block with love.
All of the work to build the wonderous cocoon was done on site. The undulating walls, rising up at the sides to block out he city sounds and skyscrapers, “I've made it curved so it doesn't feel heavy - it's soft and round," Bayley explains of the organic shape.
Immersing himself in the process, the garden ultimately took nine days to build, with the blocks alone taking three days to lay. In collaboration with Yarra View Nursery, the vision for "Under the Golden Elm" was realised. The respect given to the golden elm tree was paramount to the process and the plantings came to life around it to make up the surrounding garden. “Many of the crew have disabilities and all pitched in to help build the garden on site. They brought such enthusiasm and energy", says Bayley.
"I always like to include a sculpture in my gardens",Bayley LuuTomes
Bayley's favourite part of the structure is small openings he left here and there to invite discovery and wonder. One of the first visitors to his garden was a little girl who delighted in finding them, exclaiming "Look Daddy, I found a picnic!!" as she peeked through.
"You feel like you're in a different world in here", says Bayley, a Wellington New Zealand native who travels the world competing in garden shows. Visitors absolutely loved the experience when visiting the Bayley’s garden, with one exclaiming, “You have created a story book, real-life, unbelievable fairy tale!”
Another said, “This is just amazing! And with the feel of the branches coming in over the top and all the plants, it’s just got that really peaceful, calm feeling,”
Dismantled at the end of the garden show, the blocks will be taken back to Yarra View nursery to be rebuilt in a new and permanent home around a new sapling for visitors and plant lovers to watch it grow. "The cocoon will do its job - will nurture the tree and watch it grow, " says Bayley.
Visit Bayley on Instagram to watch the entire process unfold and follow his next adventure in International garden design.
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