MIFGS 2024: Eclipse by Ellen Freeman

WINNER of The Best Use of Plant Life Award


Describe your garden in 5 words

Unnatural design embodied with nature.

Which plant was the hero of your garden and why?

The hero of my garden was undoubtedly the Agave americana. Before my design was a design, even when it was just a swirl of ideas and a concept in my head, I knew that it would be the heroine. Or hero. It’s not a distinction we should make in our minds, on paper, or anywhere else. I was daydreaming about something strange, about the moon, the sun, and the stars- how could I go past a plant so alien in its form, its colour, and its texture? In my mind, it was a fully grown, 30+ year old specimen and I had no idea how I’d source it. I knew I wouldn’t find one in a nursery, but i took a leap of faith and designed around it.

What was an obstacle you had to overcome and how did you do it?

Unsurprisingly, it was the Agave. Months of search-alerts led us to a farm in Mansfield, 4 hours drive from home base. The removal and transport was an incredible effort by my entire family. It takes a village to raise an Agave! 2.5m in every direction, fragile, and 250kg+, they executed it flawlessly- its a truism that farmers can do anything they set their minds to. My father Ross designed and built a custom gantry and winch setup on site, my mother Angela devised a system and wrapped every leaf to prevent marking or damage, and my partner Will dug it up, perfectly preserving the rootball. 6 hours on the highway at 60, a lot of friendly (and not so friendly) toots, a tractor and a 300L growbag later, and Monster was ready for the show.

What piece of feedback will you always remember?

My teachers told me a lot of times, plants are the heroes- hardscape is flashy and fun, but in the end, the plantings are what matter. When I look at my garden, I am so glad for that advice. I used some incredible plants, some I’ve loved for a long time and some completely new to me, and the end result gave me a joy that I don’t think I ever could have found in timber and concrete.

The stage is yours, what do you want to say?

There are women and minorities who are titans and who are just starting out in every field. They have all faced, or are facing, adversity. Take advice and support wherever you find it, and give it wherever it’s needed. Be the change you want to see in your field and in the world, and don’t be afraid to blaze a trail just because you’re not sure if anybody will want to walk it.

I’d like to thank some of the incredible women who have inspired and supported me throughout the MIFGS process.

Angela- an unwavering pillar of insight, practical, and emotional support.

Fiona- for always being there with an idea and a potential solution.

Rosa- for understanding the highs and the lows of the creative process, and mentoring me through them.


Photo credits: @jennarosescreative

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