November 10th 2017
Adelaide, South Australia

It all began a few months prior to the 2016 Melbourne Garden Show.  I had put together a design that was rushed, unorganised, & poorly executed.  Needless to say It didn't make the final 5.  A little disappointed, I decided to get involved with the show through the AILDM design clinic.  In march I jumped on a plane and went to Melbourne and spent time exploring the city, finding rooftop gardens and generally enjoying the vibrant city life.  It was also my first experience with Airbnb.  Looking out of my 20th floor window down to Elizabeth Street there is a row of 100 year old townhouses.  Looking back up at me were only rusty iron roofs.  At that moment it really hit home to me the value of a rooftop space particularly in the heart of the city.  This was probably the moment that my design ideas started spinning around in my head.

I enjoyed the 2016 MIFGS despite the 4 seasons in one day, each and every day.  At the AILDM Design Clinic it was good to talk to visitors about their own gardening roadblocks and plans.  I worked there in 2015 helping with the AILDM stand so moving on to doing consults was a natural progression.  Following the session at the Design Clinic I found myself on a tour of some of the show gardens led by Warners Nurseries.  Walking through 'The Greenery Garden' was an experience in itself.  Seeing the quality of the plants, materials & workmanship that went into bringing the design to life was amazing.  

Once I was back home the design really began.  I knew immediately that I wanted to do a rooftop garden.  With urban sprawl constantly chewing up green space and spitting out the same uninspiring 'house & land package' properties it seemed relevant to design a garden suited to the urban rooftop.  Better still it lends itself to courtyards, terraces, balconies or anywhere that is left behind once the crane is disassembled from the crowded building site.

Although I had a rough idea it felt empty & was void of a real narrative to back up the design decisions I would be making.  After a few weeks of Designer's Block, and bouts of self-doubt it seemed to work itself out.  Where could I get inspiration from?  Where have rooftops been utilised already?  I thought back to a trip to New York City I went on 6 years earlier.  Bang!  Everything from that point on evolved somewhat naturally.

6 months of drawing, reading, researching, 3D modelling & not sleeping finally reached a milestone.  Sitting in the waiting room at the Doctors feeling sorry for myself I checked my email like I had obsessively for the past couple of weeks waiting to find out if I made it into the final five.  Next minute I got the email, felt excitement and then the moment was interrupted by the doctor calling my name.  For the record I ended up being told to stay at home for a week as I had Influenza.  Talk about highs and lows - these were experienced at the same time!

During these months I have been lucky enough to chat to some truly gifted designers and industry folk.  Many of them have exhibited there own designs at MIFGS and overseas.  At the end of October I made the trip to Melbourne for the site allocation.  I picked the post it note with number 2 on it so that's where you'll find me in March, B2.  The other designers are a top bunch of genuine people and I look forward to working alongside them to create 5 unique garden spaces.

The last person I spoke to as they kindly drove me to Tullamarine repeated something to me that he has said before.  "You know you are mad."  You know what. I am.  By the end of this I will have spent 12 months squinting at a computer, drawing until my hand seizes up, flying to and from Melbourne numerous times, driving 1500km, doing deals with suppliers, spending a lot of my own money, live on coffee and fruit toast for weeks, all to build a 25m2 garden space in a week, talk about it for 5 days straight, and then destroy it in 3 days. 

Keep an eye out for my next post in a week or so. 

Until then,

Tim Harper

Space Capsule Landscape Design

Episode #1 - "You know you are mad."

EPISODE #3 - "not long to go"

Episode #2 - "Fly, Drive, Plants, Sleep, Drive, Fly."

January 31st, 2017

I get the whole idea that time doesn't really go past faster when you have a deadline.  I subscribe to the idea that we just feel as though it does because we fill our lives with more and more distractions.  I do however feel as though the moment that the date had 2017 at the end of it time sped up for me.  A lot has happened in preparations for my show garden in march.  Since the last entry I have finalised the majority of plant selections, meaning I can relax knowing my stock is growing happily at Warners Nursery in Dandenong.  There are a few plants I need to source elsewhere but that is not at the top of my list tonight. 

It's a bit hard to build the structural elements of the garden without locking in a builder.  I contacted Ben Harris who won the Landscaping Victoria Boutique Garden Section last year to see if he wanted to be involved in the build.  He got me in touch with another builder, who got in touch with another builder....(you get the idea) and now I am happy to say I have 2 extremely talented carpenters from Melbourne on board.  Chris & Ian have plenty of experience under pressure as they built the winning apartment on The Block 2016 for Karlie & Will.  I'm so pleased to have the guys in my team for what is going to be a great experience.

Other milestones to mention include having legendary South Australian sculptor Rod Manning producing a custom made sculpture for the garden.  I'm so grateful for his offer.  Timber Frames Australia are sourcing & building the main timber frame features for me. 

Although I have yet to secure a major sponsor I am confident that I can find an enthusiastic company to come on board and support me in my endeavor.

I did meet this week with a wonderful writer from a very well known print magazine here in Adelaide.  Watch this space in early March for more details...

Not long to go!



December 1st, 2016

It's 3:47am.  My body clock is 13 minutes fast.  Today I have a 6:05am flight from Adelaide to Melbourne.  It's an important day in the lead up to MIFGS in March.  Finally I'll be visiting Warners Nursery in Victoria to finalise my planting plan.  As a major sponsor of the event Warners provide plants for the show.

After arriving at Tullamarine airport I quickly discover that my pull along cabin bag wasn't such a good decision.  Had I checked it before I left home I would have noticed that the handle was broken and in pieces.  Needless to say after one last forceful effort I was the only person in Melbourne carrying an overloaded carry bag with wheels, under one arm from T4 to the rental car office.  Not the best start to the first day of summer.  As it turned out, the airport had suffered a blackout and so all the rental car office staff had to process everything the old fashioned way - on paper.  I'll give the staff credit for their patience. I understand that things go wrong, but I've never understood how it has this ability to turn normal travelers into complete psychopaths. 

The next few hours involved driving east trying to get to Dandenong without using any toll roads.  As it was, it took much longer than expected so by the time I got there I had bought a significantly awesome hot breakfast.  At least the cash went on some nice food.

I spent an hour cruising around Warners on a golf cart looking at a massive range of healthy plants & trees.  The site is some 50 acres in size so walking would require a tent.  Design wise I always work better after a wander through a nursery.  I'm not someone who can sit in the office and come up with creative planting schemes.  It just doesn't work.  In any type of design it is easy to get into the habit of playing it safe and using materials and plants that have worked before.  In this case more than any other design before it I want to do things differently.  It's about challenging the way I design & think.  Seeing some of the plants I already had picked in the flesh has reminded me why I picked them in the first place.  I've also filled in some of the blanks in my original design.

So what's next?  Once I get back home it's time to finalise today's plants and jig the design a little bit.  Then back to reality for the rest of December.  A big lawn install, plenty of maintenance, quoting, and working on my newly aquired vertical garden business "WALLS OF EDEN".  I think Christmas is in there somewhere too.

Until next time