“I can bitch, snivel and winge my way through them and tear my hair out,” she says. “But basically, I love them. People who design show gardens often throw their arms up saying they will never do another one, or they get the bug. I’ve got the bug.”
The multi-gold award winning landscape designer is returning to the show after taking out two gold awards, a supreme award for lighting and the Peoples’ Choice award for her Starlight Marquee exhibition garden in 2007.
She says she’s been designing gardens all her adult life and, after starting Fusion Landscape Design in Howick in 2006, she was invited to enter the 2007 show, the last to be held in Auckland before it was moved to Christchurch.
She is returning to the show this year, the first held in Christchurch since a devastating earthquake forced the cancellation of the last one.
Designing show gardens, she says, is different from designing for clients.
“When the garden is for a client you have to take more practical considerations and function into account. At the end of the day, it’s their garden.
“You can only advise them and do the best you can. Show gardens involve designers going crazy.
“When you walk behind groups of people at garden shows you hear the tsk tsks because they think a garden is not practical.
“But you go to a garden show for entertainment and to get ideas, and for the love of plants and design.
“You don’t go to see gardens you can put in the back yard, because a lot of them you can’t.
“You don’t go to the Wearable Arts Awards to find a cocktail outfit or to the haute couture shows to find a frock. You go to be entertained and get ideas and garden shows are the same.”
She concedes that some of the things designers get away with at shows would never do at any other time. They [residential gardens] present a different set of challenges and rewards.
“The reward is to see the smile on a client’s face or to run into them 12 months later and see how happy they are with their garden. More of yourself goes into the show gardens. Things have to balance and there are different problems. You are not trying to fit an eight-seater table into a tiny courtyard.”
Lynn confesses she has never used annual bedding plants in a design — something this year’s show category demands of her. Every plant, she says, takes up 100mm by 100mm, so thin lines are out of the question and “you can’t dig down to plant. Everything has to go on top. You have to find creative ways of doing things and create the illusion with other restraints”.
“A minimum 80 per cent of the garden has to be planted with annuals and I’ve never worked with them before. Our designs are more permanent, although we can leave spaces for annuals.
“These gardens are only 28 square metres each, compared with the garden I designed for Ellerslie in 2007, which was nearly 400 square metres.”
Rotorua District Council and Napier City Council took up Lynn’s offer to mount a show garden this year.
“The difficulty will be in whether the materials will work or not, but one way or the other it will happen,” Lynn says.
Because of the size of the water nozzle pump used, lent courtesy of irrigation company, Water Dynamics, she needs a minimum 360 litre water supply. Mud pools, filled with mud exported to Christchurch from Rotorua, will be made to bubble and plop with an air supply system Lynn has sourced in Nelson.
“Once I get there [to Christchurch] I have to make it happen real fast in a few days,” Lynn says. “The build will be the most challenging.”
Napier City Council executives fell in love with Lynn’s idea for their garden immediately and, because they want to promote the city as a visitor destination, they are sending John “Bertie” Cocking, their art deco ambassador, along to man the exhibit.
The theme, Art Deco and More, celebrates the city’s role as an art deco capital, featuring a 1930s facade.
A third of the garden will be a tribute to the Hawke’s Bay wine industry, with green and purple flowers running in stripes.
Some grape vine material and local wine bottles will be scattered throughout the exhibit, along with cups, saucers, platters, knives and forks to represent the lively café scene.
On her own account, Lynn is also mounting an exhibit for her home town, Auckland, called Auckland — My City.
“It is based on what I consider Auckland to be – geographically surrounded by water, Rangitoto viewed from many parts and it [the city] is referred to as the City of Sails.”
Two thirds of the garden is planted in different shades of blue for the ocean, a sandcastle will replicate Rangitoto and three sail boats with white hulls and sails will be set into the garden. But the icing on the cake will be the kaleidoscope of colour — a sort of mixed hotch potch – to represent the multitude of ethnicities which make up the Auckland population.
However, there won’t be a pansy or a petunia in sight, “but lots of marigolds”, she says.
Mixed colour alyssum will be used to create the blue water and other annuals will include anthurium, lobelia, viburnum (for foliage), and zinnias.
Plant company, Zealandia, is tasked with creating 7800 vessels of potted colour for the designs.
“What could go wrong? Rangitoto, my sandcastle, might collapse if there is a tremor, or stuff I have organised for the exhibits might not get there. You run with it and work out how to make it work — now! So much could go wrong, it’s not funny.”
But Lynn is still laughing because she knows that when push comes to shove the Kiwi number eight fencing wire mentality will kick in.