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Interview: Elisa Scarton
Horticulturalist, Sam Davis isn’t playing with flowers, he’s combining them with cutting edge materials and design savvy to create gardens with a difference.
Started out: It’s certainly very hard to determine when my passion for horticulture began. I’d say most of the responsibility belongs to my amazing mum, Judy. Mum is a keen gardener and has been for a long time. She used to hook four-month-old baby me to the timber fence in my bassinette. I was hooked up there until dusk while mum toiled away in the garden. Having said this, the real story began in 1989 at the ripe old age of 15. One Sunday morning while scrolling through the local paper, mum noticed an advert for horticultural apprentices with the City of Melbourne. Immediately we knew this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
Big break: I’d say most people would have seen my ugly head in the paper more often than not for the design and planting of the well-known floral clock in Melbourne. As part of my role as the City of Melbourne’s horticultural team leader, I also designed the logo bed on St Kilda Road and have designed and created beds within the Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory. I also created all the floral bedding and crates that featured in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. It was a difficult and challenging project, but was enjoyed by thousands. That makes it all worth it.
Current project: I just finished working on the new Ex-Service Women’s Memorial Garden in the Shrine of Remembrance. This small garden was sponsored by Citywide Service Solutions and built around a granite cairn – a memorial stone that had been hidden away for years. Organisers decided to move the cairn to a more prominent location and I was tasked with creating a garden around it. The construction was far from simple. We installed hundreds of violets all sited in sharp rows. These, along with the forged mound in which the garden sits, steel-edged beds and a soft planting palette, helped to create a garden with difference.
Favourite project: I’ll never forget the gold-winning Flower and Garden Show landscape I was involved in in 1999. Again, Citywide sponsored us to create a magical Peter Pan landscape in the Carlton Gardens. I worked solidly with a team for 10 days installing a 13-metre long crocodile made from turf sewn to a wire frame. The croc was swimming through mounded waves of blue petunias to eat a golden timepiece. The crocodile’s teeth were made from turnips and he had claws of carrots with ridge rows of echeveria. The timepiece was filled with pyrethrum, parsley and alyssum. It was so different and fun.
What’s next: With another Conservatory change looming, I’ll be working with my nursery staff on the next installation. We have to complete five full display changes throughout the year with the Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory. We recently installed a tropical display and I’m about to start on the up and coming Cyclamen Show. This, along with the very imminent City Floral palette, should keep me busy. Also, if I’m lucky, I hope to find the time to plan a holiday back to Europe. My appetite for admiring gardens and landscapes is never sated. I can’t wait!
All images copyright City of Melbourne.
From desktop magazine.