Fantasy and aphrodisiacs spice up gardening fair

One of the fantasy animals in Jonathan's Fairytale Garden

Jonathan's Fairytale Garden and aphrodisiac plants were two unlikely attractions at a trade fair which ended at the weekend in Basel.

This content was published on February 20, 2003 - 21:32

The former was a horticultural flight of fancy while the latter seemed to attract an unusually large number of visitors, not all of them gardening enthusiasts.

What's been called the "Fireship" at Giardina was a stand featuring 25 aphrodisiac plants, subtly illuminated by green lighting and arranged along a passageway with a canvas ceiling.

The plants, all from tropical regions, belong to the botanical gardens in Zurich.

Artist Mischa Kaufmann is the creator of Fireship, which he says was inspired by the old Indian medicinal and healing tradition, Ayurveda.

"There is fire in the plants, and the word 'ship' symbolises the long voyage through history and around the world of Ayurveda," he told swissinfo.

All fired up

It would have been remiss of me as a journalist not to have sniffed out what seemed a good news story.

Unfortunately a quick sniff of the plants failed to produce the desired effect, although making tea from them apparently would work.

Kaufmann said afterwards that the plants on display were probably too young to produce "fire in your hormones", which is perhaps just as well for some of the many visitors - young and old - to his Fireship.

Flight of fancy

Giardina's organisers awarded the event's gold medal to John Scarman for his fairytale garden.

A landscape gardener and horticultural teacher, Scarman told swissinfo: "I wanted to create a garden for my 17-month-old son, Jonathan, so it's all about childhood and the imagination.

"We run a garden school in Germany where we teach landscape gardening and all the rules about paths, perspectives, proportions and so on. We advise them against putting too much together.

"But for the fairytale garden I threw the rulebook out of the window, and tried to look at it through the eyes of a child."

Living art

The result may have beeb something of a horticultural clutter.

But it worked, with reindeer and a dragon made from plants, a duck pond, scarecrows, wigwams, a small cottage and a house with a grass roof modelled on the Hobbit's dwelling - all crammed into a relatively small area.

It's easy to agree with Scarman when he says gardening should be an art form.

"Paintings are one thing, sculptures are another. But look at a garden. It changes, it moves, it's alive. It's actually a living work of art."

swissinfo, Richard Dawson

Key facts

Giardina usually attracts up to 50,000 visitors and is held on alternate years in Basel and Zurich.
As well as the themed gardens, it provides an opportunity to inspect - and buy -gardening equipment from some 200 stands.
Visitors can also get advice from gardening experts.

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