Today we had a great chat with Jim about the evolution of Cactus Country and where it is headed in the near future... it sounds like the Cactus Country journey is only just beginning...
So Jim, how the hell do you go about being inspired to not only create a cactus garden but Cactus Country?
Gardening was always in my genes, my father and grandfather were gardeners and we always had a large garden when we were children so I grew up gardening. My great great grandfather was a gardener for one of the largest estates in England and my grandfather was a nurseryman and gardener. So I guess from a young age I was surrounded by gardens, nursery’s and farming.
It definitely sounds like gardening has always been in your DNA then, when did you first get introduced to Cacti?
From about 5 years old until 11 I started growing cacti as a hobby on my parents farm. My father always had Cacti, I would work on cleaning them and grew seedlings as a hobby. So I guess it started from when I was pretty young.
After your experiences, how long until Cactus Country first opened?
To make ends meet, we milked cows, did seasonal farm work and ran orchards. However, we eventually decided running an orchard was not for us. So we started growing winter vegetables, and as a side hobby, started making a small cactus garden, all created by hand, wheelbarrows and a strong back!
The Cactus garden was opened to the public in 1988 but it was just a small hobby as the winter vegetables were considered the main focus.
This year was the last year of growing vegetables as the garden has taken off which is really exciting for us! Cactus Country is now one of the biggest Victorian tourism destinations for Australian and International Tourists.
Did you ever envisage being an iconic tourist destination or is that something that has just grown organically?
When I was about 18, I went overseas and saw what tourism was doing in London. I think I always had in the back of my mind that I’d like to create a space that could entertain and give national and international travelers something special to see in Victoria. We are by no means where we want to be, but really happy to have created something special to continue evolving.
Jim where do you draw your inspiration from to continually evolve what you have created?
I look at magazines, films and obviously spend a lot of time in nature. I don't really believe in new ideas, I think we are inspired and then take that inspiration and evolve it. I'm inspired by what is around me, and then bring that into my world. I’ve always had an interest in the creative process, creative people and sculpting in general. Sculpture is something I’d like to bring to the next evolution of Cactus Country.
Do you have any other insights into your creative process or developing ideas and direction?
I often think creative minds have this perception of being moody, difficult, emotional, eccentric individuals. I'm not sure I agree with that as I don't think it’s entirely true, I think these types of people have found things they love to do and therefore invest a lot of time and energy into their passions.
When you do that you get so invested and don't necessarily rest properly, sleep properly or allow enough down time. Giving our minds an opportunity to be creative and evolve new ideas while we have a good nights sleep is definitely key for me.
So speaking of creative inspiration, there is talk of an exciting new project at Cactus Country...what’s the next evolution Jim can you share with us?
For now, we are calling it ‘The Pit’, it’s the next development area at Cactus Country. (See picture of the space below) This is what we are going to transform.
We will continue to expand the garden and we have loved doing this but now I’m going to play with my sculptural side. Build some things, invite in some colour and see if we can create something special.
This sounds really exciting but by the looks of it, a very big project! What will this space be used for when its finished are you thinking?
It’ll be an opportunity to host smaller events in the middle of the garden. It is going to be about 2 acres and like any creative process, I'm not exactly sure how it’s going to turn out. I'm starting with a foggy vision and will refine it as I go.
I’m looking forward to working on it now and can’t wait to see how it turns out. I will definitely be sharing the stages with you as we go! Thanks Jim for the update and we are really excited to see how the next part of Cactus Country evolves!
If you have any ideas or inspiration you'd love to send to Jim for this space, although Jim is not on emails regularly please send them along and we will make sure he gets them! email@example.com