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You don’t have to have green fingers and spend your weekends tending to your garden to appreciate the skill on display at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Thousands will descend on the six-day festival between May 22-26, to witness the spectacular flora and fauna vying for the judges’ attention.

In a huge nod to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, there will be more than a hint of patriotism running throughout the displays.

Flying the flag for Down Under will be Jason Hodges, fresh of the set of TV’s Better Homes And Gardens, and the landscaper is promising to wow Londoners with his take on a Sydney backyard.

Down Under dreaming

The iconic Australian backyard is wilting in the face of over-development, but Hodges, with his working-class roots and an invigorating Aussie bluster, has bowled into London to champion a place that defined every Australian’s childhood.

His show entry, The Trailfinders Australian Garden, features a lemon tree, a fire, and a pizza oven as the main elements, has already been subjected to much hype.

“I feel like I’ve already won,” the 39-year-old says. “My theory is I’ve got the gold medal because they accepted my design. It can only go wrong now on account of skills and the weather, and I’ve got a great team – I just picked my mates. There’s not much
I can do about the weather.”

The garden pays homage to Hodges’ hometown, Willoughby, on Sydney’s north shore, with pergola beams clad in fence palings, a pavilion with a barbecue and pizza oven, pillars clad in recycled corrugated iron, and a rear garden wall made of sandstone, constructed at an angle reminiscent of the piers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Of course, there’s plenty of lawn, too.

“I always say I learned more standing at the barbecue with dad than I did at school, so there’s a lot of fire in my garden,” Hodges says. “You can sit at a fire and speak your mind. When you go camping, the highlight is sitting by a fire, with a guitar, with loved ones. Even when everyone’s gone to bed you can dream by a fire – without sounding like
a pyro. I call it nature’s therapy.”

The pizza oven reflects Australia’s multiculturalism, he says. “I grew up around a lot of Greeks, and with Italian neighbours. They all had a pizza oven, so in every house I own I always build a pizza oven. Everyone gets a kick out of making pizza, so it really is
a great communal feature.”

Hodges is only the eighth Australian involved in the Chelsea Flower Show’s 99-year history, and even if his garden doesn’t win, at least he has given homesick Aussies a taste of home, however fleeting.

“When I was growing up, all I wanted was a ute and a dog, and not to have a boss, so I’m pretty happy with my lot.”


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The 2012 Chelsea Flower Show
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