Extreme gardening with Lloyd Godman!
The term "extreme gardening" was first coined by Melbourne newspaper The Age in 2015 after Lloyd Godman installed Tillandsias - sometimes known as air plants - on top of Melbourne's Eureka Tower, almost 300 metres above street level.
A few years later, Lloyd, whose work combines photography and gardening with a dash of performance art, gave extreme gardening another nudge, this time down at sea level.
Many years ago I began doing interactive installations of plants in galleries and I began studying suitable plants. More recently, people are trying to integrate plants into architecture - growing vertical gardens and such - so we're looking to do that in a fully sustainable way, because, unfortunately, a lot of vertical gardens aren't sustainable. Maintenance can run into millions of dollars a year.
So what we've been doing is working with plants called 'air plants', which take everything in through the leaf. They don't need water and soil and all that at the root, and they can withstand incredibly hot, dry conditions.
The correct name is tillandsia, they live up in the mountains in South America but they can grow right down to the coast. Biologically, air plants do some interesting things because they don't need soil and they actually grow at night, they don't grow during the day. That's why they can withstand hot, dry temperatures.
Over the last few years we've been testing them in extreme locations to see if can survive. However, it was their resilience to salt that was of particular interest to me.
I took my air matt and my air plant down to Cape Patterson, attached the plant to my helmet and paddled out. There was a guy out there that came up to me and he asked, "Is that some kind of device to keep the seagulls off your head?"
A plant which is rooted, you couldn't take it for a surf. Most plants you couldn't take for a surf. Then again, if you're a scientist, you're not going to do an experiment like that, however if you're a surfer, you might as well stretch the boundaries, have a bit of fun with it.
After I took the air plant for a surf, some of the outside leaves died back a bit, so I'd imagine they couldn't live in saltwater full time, but they can withstand lots of salt. In fact, that plant flowered almost a year later.
Besides vertical gardens there are lots of uses for air plants, they can provide shade on the western side of houses, and instead of using plastic shade cloths, which deteriorate over time putting microfibres into waterways, you can wire airplants into place. Just walk way and leave it. There are over 700 species with probbaly half a dozen species that can really withstand those super hot, dry, conditions.
I rode Wavegarden wavepool recently and I noticed the structure that covers the engine could be covered with a design of plants. The skirt that runs up is made of a synthetic microfibre material, and in two months it's already starting to deteriorate. Those microfibres are breaking off and getting in the water. The column they've got is perforated - it's perfect! You could do something really interesting with that.
I've had a couple of surfs with a mat at the wavepool. I'm easily the oldest guy, usually by about twenty years. The last time I went there, this Alpha Male of the pack stepped forward and he said, "OK guys, this is an elder, we follow him out, he gets the first wave."
I thought that was pretty cool. And the mat went great there.
I've been riding the mat for nearly fifty years. My surfing background, I surfed in New Zealand for years and years, and then in '73 I went to Hawaii with a guy called called Chris Brock. Chris and I lived in a treehouse in what was called Taylor Camp on Kauai. I'd often surf with Billy Hamilton. Billy asked me a couple of times: "Can you babysit the kids?" And one of those kids, of course, turned out to be Laird Hamilton.
But when I was there I injured my back on a reef, and it became pretty difficult standing up. That's when I took up mat riding seriously.