I know where The Lakes residential subdivision is, I drove towards it one dark and stormy winter’s night when tucked in behind a weather protecting truck and trailer unit, I inadvertently headed off along the toll road instead of driving towards Bethlehem – oh well.
Despite the large, appropriately graphiced and coloured signage I still manage to turn off one roundabout too soon – I think the memory of my winter $2. toll has made me excessively cautious about driving along this highway! I go round and round the round about and turnoff again (clearly indicated) and I’m there at the free public area of the 2014 Garden & Art Festival, Tauranga. I’m actually excited I’ve managed to get here and then, like a surprise walnut on an afghan, I find the hardworking Festival Director John Beech, is leading the on site parking team.
I’ve been running around all morning like a battered rat and so it’s straight to the on site Delicacy Cafe for a cup of tea. In there waiting for a coffee is Tauranga Sculptor Nic Clegg. Nic is tutoring at the BOP Polytechnic and has brought along students from his art welding course. He tells me he helped out by creating some of wire sculptures and designs seen around the place – not exhibiting he says, just helping the Festival out.
Sitting outside at one of the huge wooden outdoor table settings I hear a fellow sitter say, “…well the Garden & Art Festival is really for old people”. I splutter into my tea, as looking at the programme, this year’s Festival is for “the community” and those families that I see filtering on to the site after school has finished, or attending the huge family day at the Lakes or the children focused events at the Tauranga Art Gallery, most probably wouldn’t agree.
Having started with tea I immediately meet the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic Bachelor of Creative Industries students and their word wishing tree. I decided not to include any of my personal or public wishes but I had a long talk to Nora a fashion student in the BCI course. Nora explained to me the garden area which was primarily created by herself and another fashion and design student.. Pairs of jeans stuffed and planted. Brightly painted old tyres. Painted and gardened motocross clothing and a series of dressed board fashion figures. They’re being photographed by a “grandma” as a project to do with grandchildren. I race back and tell Nora the positive comments I’m hearing and I meet some of the other BCI students involved in the wishing tree project.
Beside the lake, behind the wishing tree, is what looks like a well set out area of junk. It’s very clever – it’s another BOP Polytechnic assemblage – nature taking back.
I’m in the Coraleigh Parker created hanging forest. Kokedama (preserved plants and trees) of all sizes and lengths hang from a tall and imposing pergola walkway. In amongst them is a different world and atmosphere. While I’m in their it’s like reality itself is suspended and it’s an entirely different atmosphere from the uncontained outside world.
Somewhere in my tour I closely examined the succulent sculptures created by Brian Collecutt. They’re fascinating. He’s created animal shapes (think elephant) and then fleshed them out with succulents. I spent the longest time here looking over each and every sculpture.
As I walk towards the large marque housing floral exhibits I can hear the speaker in the ticketed speaking tent. I decide not to stand around the back of the tent and listen but head into an other-worldly tent of grand piano water features, breathtaking floral art, wall garden equipment, stands of precise traditional and bonsai inspired topiary, and of course The Tricky Box 8 another weirdo interactive excitement creation by Lipika Sen and Prabhjyot Majithia. (Earlier a someone had told me they’d been growled at for touching the Tricky Box. How odd it was clearly labeled as an interactive exhibition and while tea drinking I’d spoken with Lipika and Prabhjoyt who were just off to adjust their exhibit.) If you’ve never come into contact with Tricky Boxes keep a look out for them. After I sat and followed the instructions I wrote “beautiful witty, little interactives” and I loved the similarly drawn caricatures available for sale. Oh for an unlimited purse Ms Sen.
Behind suspended walls of sunflowers and yellow flax are the exhibits of the Bay of Plenty Floral Art Society of New Zealand. Beautiful if ephemeral creativity. And I saw a green carnation. I also saw a large display of painted lilies only days after I’d told a Tauranga Farmer’s Market Grower how unreal they looked. The Festival’s WOW section using gardening materials was worth a look – “imagination is worth more than knowledge”
There’s a walk of garden areas created by local schools – all different. Tauranga Intermediate have created really purchasable mandala style painted garden art. Others have different themes. Five schools this year, make that 55 schools in two years. This area was hosted by a representative of the sponsor Acorn Foundation who made donations to each school’s charity of choice.
I’m on the fringe of the area now and there’s a walkway and innovative art and garden art including a plastic drink bottle arch and pergola. There’s some more traditional garden art with the aluminum garden décor of Steve Allen (of the Lightwave Virtual Gallery) and large, sombre, carved totara posts. At the end of this walk I find myself outside a small upmarket enclosed garden seating area – it’s Festival Trustee and Landscape Designer Michelle McDonnel strutting her stuff.
You’ll laugh but not only did they have a fabulous on-site cafe they had beautifully, clean temporary toilets. If this space is available for the next Garden & Art Festival for a similar garden and arts village/hub/expo I hope you’ll do this again. It was worth the trips round the roundabouts. Congratulations to John Beech, Festival Director and the hardworking trustees of the Festival Trust.