If you were one of the thousands who joined us for Life Instyle Sydney, you would have been welcomed in through a tropical oasis created by Dirtscape Dreaming and Pigweed exclusively for our seasonal concept, Happiness By Design.
As a follow up to this tranquil and rejuvenating installation, our Creative Director, Genty Marshall chats with the Director of Dirtscape Dreaming, Betsy-Sue Clarke about the transformative qualities of the natural world and how considered landscaping can awaken the senses and improve our well-being and happiness, by design.
How would you best sum up your philosophy for landscape design?
I believe that gardens are a place for connection with a world beyond the everyday, to lift us out of the things that would hold us back and give us hope, inspiration and joy. When an environment is created that reflects all that a person is and all they want to be, the connection is irresistible and it feels like a sanctuary – a haven of peace and tranquillity. In this place they can let go and grow emotionally, empowering change that brings a greater sense of peace as they are more true to themselves.
Many people say that gardens are the source of their happiness, but all gardens (and people) are different. How do you go about finding out what sort of garden will increase each client’s happiness?
Often we don’t recognise that difference is ok and that can be a great source of unhappiness!
I try to find out how to design for a client by knowing them. I spend a lot of time getting to know who they are, what they dream of, what they aspire to and what fills them with love.
Does just being in a garden create feelings of happiness, or does that happen when you are working in a garden, interacting with it?
That’s different for different people. It depends on what that person needs to be doing (or not doing) to let their thoughts and worries go. For instance, people who aren’t good at letting themselves stop may need to work in the garden until they begin to let go of other’s expectations – then after a while they may learn to just let themselves sit and be peaceful. Our goal is to help people to feel their emotions, however they need to do that. In feeling, they can reflect on what’s working in their life and what isn’t, and in the acceptance of that there is growth. When a person is closer to who they really want to be, who they really are, that is where the happiness is.
What are the characteristics you introduce?
I seek to create places where people can stop and pause for a moment or days as they choose – so seating with varied levels of seclusion or views in nature are always present. Some will need cave like places to hide and be reflective, others will need openness and long views – it depends on where they are in their growth. In a public space I will look to include both. As people let go of their feelings they will want more openness and will find the cave like spots too restrictive. When we are vulnerable and reeling from life, curling up in a nest is perfect.
There are usually places for people to come together for celebrations but the form of that will differ enormously with the purpose of the space and the people who will use it. When I’m planning a garden for a public use, I will run community engagement sessions to explore how to help people feel what they go to that space for.
What is most important, the layout or the planting scheme?
One can’t be achieved well without the appropriate design of the other – they are co-dependant and enhance each other. If one is missing or done poorly, no one will want to pause there.
Do you think a garden should reflect the personality of the client or the building (home)?
For a garden to be in harmony with the client and reflect their personality is paramount. What is the point otherwise apart from feeding the ego of the designer?
For a garden to be in harmony with its surroundings is similarly important, it can help architecture belong to the land it is on or it can make the architecture appear completely lost if not respected. That doesn’t mean curves can’t happen alongside an angular building, it means the strength of lines should be in harmony and not compete. There are basic design principles here that a good designer will instinctively employ.
Should gardens be designed for longevity?
Hmm. If a small private garden is designed for emotional healing and to reflect the client, it should change as they change. They will begin to feel uncomfortable with aspects of it as they grow. A larger private garden may be able to accommodate their needs for a longer time but eventually they will want change in planting, view length, sculptural aspects and perhaps even materials. Public space designed through consultation will appeal to people who are at a similar place in life as long as its in that form. Even botanical gardens change over time and so they should – our needs change as individuals and groups in response to external influences on our lives. So a garden can be admired for its historical value and give great joy to those visiting, but will not assist emotional growth and healing necessarily.
What about the indoor garden? How can we share our homes with plants?
I like to think we could learn to live lightly with nature, to cover only what we need to with structure and embrace a totally different way of visualising what a home is. Do we really need flooring everywhere or could natural earth, a creek, a rock outcrop become part of our home? We are in awe of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Falling Waters’ house – built over and alongside nature. However, it feels like we haven’t moved far towards making that a way of living. If we can create a forest inside a building as we did for the entrance to Life Instyle, why can’t we have a garden in our lounge room? Of course we can, and should. We would be happier.
To create your own sanctuary visit
sparkkshop.com.au – Cushions
thefamilylovetree.com.au – Furniture
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