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As the weather cools slightly and the months march on, the outstanding Autumn work by internationally renowned designer Jenny Gillies takes pride of place in the new exhibition building “The Enchanted Garden” now inhabits.
Only a few steps from the Tea Kiosk, where she was located for almost three years, the exhibition is into the 3rd week in its new home, in the Old Information Centre and things are as busy as ever.
“There are so many tourists in town,” she says, “and of course we are getting a good number of locals too. They seem to like the new location with the brighter walls and view onto the lake.”
Gillies’ costumes have been featured both nationally and internationally in exhibitions and live performances promoting our beautiful Garden City. Beauty, humour and an abundance of colour are showcased in her works, which change seasonally, as the flora in the gardens does.
Her Autumn costume includes dozens of fabric leaves, each handmade and taking around several hours each to make. The entire creation took many months to complete and leaves continue to be added on and around it.
With 6000 Trip Advisor reviews, regularly noting Enchanted Garden as the “#1 thing to do” in the city, this exhibition is clearly a key Christchurch tourist attraction.
Gillies says people from around the world visit the Enchanted Garden, many of whom have seen her at overseas gardening events. Local school students and retirement village residents also frequently visit, many of whom then visit the Gardens Ilex café for lunch or a coffee.
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Location: Just over the bridge from the Armagh Street Botanic Gardens carpark, in the former Information Centre, to the left of the Tea Kiosk)
Summer hours: 10-4pm, Monday-Sunday
Tickets: All tickets $5, children under 5 free.
Jenny, who lives in Christchurch, combines her love of gardens and flowers to create truly amazing costumes, often taking three months and up to 70 metres of sumptuous silk and velvet fabrics to complete.
A former microbiologist, Jenny started making wearable art 20 years ago after a sunflower hat she made was spotted at the annual Christchurch Cup and Show Week horse racing events, and she was then commissioned to make more. Jenny has gone on to produce costumes for theatre, film and opera, and has won several awards.
Her work has featured at the Royal Adelaide Show, the World of Wearable Art Awards, and Ellerslie International Flower Show. A selection of her designs is currently on display at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens to mark the reopening of the historic Tea Kiosk following the devastating earthquakes of 2011.
Jenny’s gowns begin with a real flower, which she pulls apart to create patterns for each element and ensure that her creation is botanically correct. She has a collection of around 100 costumes and displays which have been regularly rotating at the Victorian Tea Kiosk in the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, depending on the season.