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A walk through Suncheon’s British Garden

With less than a month left before the opening, the preparations for the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo are in full swing. Among the many beautiful spectacles prepared to welcome visitors, the National Gardens full of the unique attitudes and cultural features of ten nations are considered one of the highlights. For the success of the exhibition, garden designers responsible for each nation are making their way to Suncheon ahead of the show to look around the venue and put the final touches -- actually the most important part of their work -- on their gardens.

Among them is Andy Sturgeon, the British garden designer at the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo who arrived in Korea in the middle of March. The multiple award-winning designer, known to have won numerous awards at garden shows including RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, the Horticultural Excellence Award in Singapore, and the Gardening World Cup in Japan, made his first appearance in Korea in hopes of making himself known in this part of the region. interviewed the British gardening expert about the journey that led him to this event, and also about his career.

Andy Sturgeon is one of the world’s leading landscape and garden designers. He will showcase the British Garden, combining traditional materials and contemporary stylings at the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo (photo: Jeon Han).

Andy Sturgeon is one of the world’s leading landscape and garden designers. He will showcase the British Garden, combining traditional materials and contemporary stylings at the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo (photo: Jeon Han).

“Suncheon Bay Garden Expo, where all different cultures are brought together”

Q. What factors influenced your decision to take part in the Korean garden expo?

A: When I first heard this expo would have designs from lots of different countries, I thought it can be more vibrant and interesting since everybody will bring their own unique attitude from their own cultures to the show.

I have worked all around the world and I enjoy working with different countries. I always learn a lot from seeing the way other people make things and design things. I think ideas are everywhere out in the world.

Q. Was there any factor that particularly appealed to you?

There is a certain feeling at the start. I have been involved in quite a lot of shows around the world. I have seen some really successful ones and some others that I don’t really understand. For this one, I considered it is potentially going to be legacy since the elements will remain and be sustainable after the show. For me, it is important and is something that I will be proud of.

Q. Please introduce the main concept of your design.

A: “Life’s Journey” is what I would like to call it. When you enter into the garden, you have a choice, going left or right. It is meant to represent different choices you have in your life. When you move through the garden, you can get a glimpse through to the other side, the route that you could have taken but you can’t actually cross back through to see it. You just have to continue on your path. Each way you go, you will experience something different. Both paths lead to the same point as you reach the same destination at the end of your life. As you go, you will slow down, become more restful, peaceful, and find something like sanctuary in the courtyard.

“The design is a metaphor for the journey you take through your life”

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the concept?

A: Part of the idea came from the concept of sustainable garden, and also from the way that gardening influenced my life whenever I had to make different choices and take different routes.

Q. Do you find yourself on the right track led by the right choices?

A: I remember I became a gardener by accident. I started working as a gardener in 1983 and realized I was enjoying the work so I went to college to study tropical studies. Afterwards, I built up experience in many different parts of this field. Twenty years later, I visited Singapore for the first time to do a garden show where I happened to work with tropical plants. It seemed like all the pieces suddenly fitting together, all experiences and things that I have done completing the circle.

Q. What do you expect from audiences?

A: I do not want audiences to read something like in a museum or gallery. They should be able to come and see, and take it to make their own interpretation. There is just one thing to keep in mind that an Englishman came to Korea and created this garden with local stones and materials, therefore it will have links through Korea. With this, I want to touch the people in their hearts to engage with them.

Q. What is your plan during this visit?

A: I found this project a challenge that I had to design the planting palette for the garden on the ground in South Korea, rather than from plant nurseries in the UK. I will be starting with a blank canvas with local nurseries in the Suncheon region to source native plants and regional materials that will give it an authentic feel. I will also give a try to understand the unknown qualities of the nation and the people. It is an exciting prospect and an important project that I am proud to be involved with.

Throughout nearly 30 years of career experience in this field, the commissions he has received include large country estates and unique rooftop gardens throughout the UK, and international projects in Hong Kong, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Now, he expresses his hopes to work in this part of the region and cover the whole of Asia.

By Lee Seung-ah

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