Our very own Charlie Albone has been selected to display a garden at the Beijing Horticulture Expo.
Running for six months of the year, this expo is one of the biggest in the world, with over 16 million people expected to attend and be inspired by the lush, green gardens carefully curated by horticulture experts from around the world.
Here, Charlie chats exclusively with us about his brand new display at this year's Beijing International Horticulture Expo and how it's all coming together.
Can you tell us a bit about the design inspiration behind the garden?
"I put forward a design called 'The stages of life', and it's supposed to represent the various times in your life and what you are going through. I know for me, I started Selling Houses Australia when I was 24 and now I am married with kids and things have changed a lot, so that's what I wanted to capture.
"There are sections of the garden that represent different stages of life. There's a woodland area that represents the sometimes foggy feeling we get going through life, but then there's large, open space to capture the feeling of clarity you get you get when you've done right or something seems to be going your way.
"You go into the garden through a giant split boulder around 2.2metres tall that is polished on the inside, so when you walk through, there's a kind of black mirrored effect to give you a real feeling of reflection.
"I've also designed a large, sunken courtyard area at the back of the garden that doubles as a water feature. It fills up with water, leaving you sort of 'forced' to stay there - the idea being that with our busy lives and all the distractions of social media and the like, we actually don't spend any time with our friends even though we think we do."
What do you hope people will take away from your display?
"Whenever you have a show garden you just want to inspire people to get interested in horticulture, or to adopt a greener lifestyle. I get a lot of benefits from working in horticulture and having gardening in my life, so it's about spreading that word and getting people to enjoy their own gardens."
Tell us about the build process, and how long it takes to create such a garden...
"The build is actually done by the Chinese government, so I have nothing to do with it, which is very strange as I tend to be involved in the build on all gardens I work on, both for shows and in my own business.
"We send them a detailed plan and then they just build off that. I get the odd email at 2am asking questions about plants or if something is satisfactory... so it's a very strange experience for me, as when I turn up, the garden will be complete.
"In terms of planning, it's also very different to things I've done in the past as this garden is open for six months. You need to consider how the plants I've chosen will grow into one another and it's not just something displayed for five days, it's about how it will evolve over the season.
"Coming up with the concept design is the hardest part. When I design a garden it comes from an abstract pattern almost - for example a herringbone pattern may influence my design, so I start drawing it on paper and it expands from there."
As the garden is open for six months, what planting considerations do you have to make?
"The climate is something major to consider. In the past, when I've done the Chelsea Flower Show, the garden is supposed to be based somewhere in Australia, and you can do that because it only needs to last for five days.
"As this garden needs to go through spring and summer, a lot of the planting in sculputal and structured - we've got a lot of buxus balls or ilex crenata around the courtyard. The woodland area is quite easy as is is a lot of trees, but at the back, there's going to be a perennial planting deck with a sculpture around it so you need to look at what's available and how it will grow."
How is this international garden show different from previous displays you've built?
"I think the fact that 16 million people are going to look at it will be quite scary! It's also a different market. The UK market has a keen gardening culture, but I know very little about the Chinese gardening culture. I'm not sure how it's going to be recieved - but I'll work that out pretty quickly once I get there!"
The Beijing International Horticultural Expo will open on April 29, 2019. See here for more information.