He does not sweat the small stuff in life but when it comes to his gardens, no detail is too small.

Sweeping the top awards at the recent Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) 2018 is Malaysian veteran landscape architect Lim In Chong, better known as Inch Lim.

He took home the Best of Show title in the Landscape Gardens category, as well as the Gold and Horticulture Excellence awards, with his entry called “The Wild and The Restless”.

In fact, in SGF 2016, Lim bagged the same awards for his creation, The Treasure Box.

The SGF is an established flower and garden show event held biennially that attracts the world’s top landscape and garden designers, florists and horticulturists.

Lim’s 80sq m garden this year harnessed the beauty of wayside plants, which are mainly native wild plants or species that have migrated from other countries and settled here as wayside plants.

“Wayside plants are very interesting because nobody has ever grown them as ornamentals, so we didn’t know how long it would take. In a show, the plants have to peak, so what happened was we had to experiment and grow them from scratch.

Wayside plants are mainly native wild plants or species that have migrated from other countries and settled here as wayside plants.

“Some peaked very fast, and we had to grow another crop. Some didn’t peak, or did not peak fast enough. So that was the great challenge, but it all worked out in the end,” explained Lim, when we met at his office Inchscape in KL recently.

In the end, he had to grow a lot more plants that were actually used. The plants were grown in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru. Some of the species were the Vanda Hookeriana Miss Joaquim orchid, the Celosia argentea, commonly known as the plumed cockscomb or silver cock’s comb, Arundina graminifolia, also known as bamboo orchid, and Bidens pilosa, or blackjack.

The theme “The Wild and the Restless” also held a special meaning for Lim.

“There were two reasons. One is because (wayside plants) are sustainable and grow by themselves so effortlessly in the wild. And they are plants that we encounter on a daily basis.

“The other thing is, we often don’t notice the beautiful things around us all the time. So this is about trying to focus people’s attention on something that they don’t notice, but is beautiful and right in front of their eyes,” shared Lim, 63, who is from Batu Pahat, Johor.

Winning designs

Lim practically does a show garden each year, and wins either a gold medal, or best design, or best in show awards.

In the 2011 Gardening World Cup in Japan, he won four awards, a feat that remains unchallenged so far.

His show garden entry entitled “Gardens of Peace, Faith and Hope” won the Gold Medal Award, Best Design Award (by order of the Sasebo Mayor) and the Nagasaki Governor’s Peace and Flowers Award for the Best Interpretation of Theme.

Lim explains that “The Wild and The Restless” garden aimed at bringing people’s attention to the beauty of wayside plants. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

It represented a message of hope in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011.

At the same event the following year, he repeated his victory by taking home the Gold Medal and emerged overall winner for the Best in Show Award given by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan.

His entry, called “Eye to Eye”, highlighted the war in the Middle East, and how violence happens when people don’t see eye to eye.

“Most people go to a garden and and go, ‘Oh, nice garden’, but you know, the whole idea is to try and create gardens that people can either form some sort of bond to or they elicit emotions from them,” he shared.

For example, a lady from Vietnam who saw his show garden in Singapore recently said that it aroused a lot of feelings of her childhood, and brought up a lot of memories for her.

“So, the whole idea is to get people to relate to your garden in more ways than it being just a pretty garden.”

The “Gardens of Peace, Faith and Hope” show garden by Lim, which won the Gold Medal Award, Best Design Award and the Nagasaki Governor’s Peace and Flowers Award for the Best Interpretation of Theme at the 2011 Gardening World Cup in Japan. Photo: Inchscape

In another project he did in Japan called The Womb, Lim shared how a woman saw it and immediately burst into tears.

“When that happens, you realise that you have done your job. The garden is indelibly etched in their consciousness. You are using the garden as a language to speak to people. To me that is something that I like to do. Even in my normal work, I try to do that.”

Being a seasoned landscape designer, what is his view about mentoring?

“In the design field, it takes many, many years to become a designer. A lot of design is about experience and you need to pass on that experience to the younger generation.

“So yes, I am very keen on mentoring because I am already 63 and won’t be around forever. In design, you make a lot of mistakes but you slowly develop your ability. Sometimes one designs using the subconscious. So you develop this skill without actually developing the skill consciously. That is something I try to teach people who come to me,” he added.

Lim also believes in teaching more than just landscape design.

“I tell people that if you come to me, your life must be richer after you have come to me, not just in design, but in everything about life, including sharing knowledge and the way you treat people. I think life is all about this holistic aspect rather than purely design,” he said.