Cover A viewing deck was incorporated into the design

Lim's entry to the 10th China Flower Expo in Shanghai references the dreamy landscapes found in old Chinese paintings

At the 10th China Flower Expo held at Shanghai’s Chongming Island held earlier this year, award-winning Malaysian landscape architect and founder of Inchscape, Inch Lim, submitted an entry designed remotely called "On the Rocks." Lim's entry to China's answer to the Chelsea Flower Show was inspired by old Chinese landscape paintings.

"I wanted to express the paintings in a modern direction, with its combination of gnarled old trees, plants clinging to the walls, rocks, and architecture," he explains.

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Indeed, Lim's garden uses artistic techniques to tell the close relationship between human evolution and rocks. Using rocks, water and plants as key elements, the tableau refers to famous scenic spots related to rocks, and integrates characteristic vertical greening to create a multi-level garden that can be seen from all sides.

The rocks seem to float gently on the water, towering into the clouds, in various poses, making people feel the ever-changing, dreamlike garden world. The main plants are ornamental grasses and ferns, interspersed with flowering plants which create a lush atmosphere

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As to why Lim was inspired by rocks, he cites pre-historic times. "I think that humans and rocks have a very close relationship that go back to when we were living in caves. We are drawn toward the strength and hardness of rocks that to us represent longevity," he says. "We often use them to build our houses and refine them and cover our floors and walls. They give us a sense of security. I wanted to convey that relationship."

Due to ongoing travel restrictions, Lim was unable to be oversee the execution of his design in person, which was challenging, to say the least. "It is not the easiest thing in the world to create a garden without being physically there. Of course, they have contractors and we have a full set of drawings and 3D images, which is fine as far as the big picture is concerned, but it is in the details that we have the most frustration. Trying to express the quality of the details and plantings through the barrier of distance and to bridge that using IT is still far from perfect," he recalls.

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"Due to Covid, the organiser postponed the show for six months thinking it would be over by the summer. As we now know, it wasn’t to blow over so quickly. The only problem it presented was my inability to travel to direct the operations. Still, all in all, and given the circumstances, I think we did fairly well," continues Lim.

Fairly well is an understatement as 'On the Rocks' took the top prize at the show, a gratifying validation of a unique design despite a rocky start.