A big focus at Sophie’s Patch over the past month has been preparing for my feature garden Grow Up at the 2021 Royal Adelaide Show which opens in just five weeks on Saturday 5th September. This is my twelfth show garden since 2009 and I just love the opportunity I am given to physically demonstrate a gardening concept or theme that I am particularly passionate about at the time. Over the years these gardens have included themes on backyards for kids, gardens for health and wellbeing, bee friendly gardening, habitat gardening and in 2019 it was Balance, about the balance between hard and soft landscaping, plant-life and work-life balance. The theme of these show gardens often starts to grow in my brain as I am packing up the previous year’s display and as there was no 2020 show due to COVID, the idea has been growing in my head since spring 2019.

So, Grow Up is in response to the increase in urban infill that is happening around Adelaide, and across this nation, with one home on a decent sized block bulldozed to make way for four, five or six houses on smaller blocks. This higher density living sees houses, often multiple storeys, with a large footprint on their small block, leaving limited space left in which to garden.

Rather than be negative about this trend, I want to demonstrate something positive and how, whatever the size of your space, you can green it up and cool it down. In this way gardens and green life can mitigate the urban heat island effect, which is concerning governments around the world, and is a concern in our hot dry state. I hope to also show that gardens make outdoor spaces more liveable for the humans, and other creatures that share our cities – every garden can address the lack of urban habitat and become a biodiversity hot spot. One of the challenges with growing a garden in a small courtyard sized space, apart from the obvious limited ground space, is that there are often tough growing conditions like radiant heat. As a result, these gardens require creative gardening options so that a small space gardens can still be highly productive.

As always, my goal is to demonstrate practical ideas for gardeners and non-gardeners, on every budget, that are doable and scalable. Not only do I want to give ideas, but I also want to grab people’s attention with the wow factor of whimsical elements that appeal to those of all ages and stages. So, colours in this show garden may be bold and features over the top, but hopefully it will inspire people to green up their outdoor space, whatever the size.

My hope is that we as a community can Grow Up, to green up and cool down our cities and towns.

Here is George Cooper’s artists impression of what I will create. George has been doing these concept sketches for my gardens since 2014 and has also worked on my other projects like the ‘Tour Down Under’ garden installation, and of course the ever-changing map of Sophie’s Patch given to all visitors on their arrival.

show garden

If you are heading to the Show, I will be doing a talk each day on the weekends, (4th, 5th, 11th and 12th September) so check the schedule of speakers for exact times.