Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chelsea 2014 Fresh Gardens

Fresh Gardens... for innovative and modern concepts in garden design...

Personally this is a section of the show that I have to quickly pre-condition myself as we approach it, to remind myself that this where avant-garde and out of the box designs are encouraged. To be more open minded and look beyond what meets the eye...

Funny enough I am a fan of modern art and contemporary designs and take delight in visiting museums and art galleries catered to such genres. But no need to prepare oneself as you expect it there. But in a garden show? Why not!

Or rather, why??

Anyway, take a look at some of what's on offer in the Fresh Garden Category, with simple and 'realist' commentary from yours truly!

The Mind's Eye Garden - Gold Medal

Our favourite of the lot and rightfully deserves its Gold Medal and Best in Category accolade. It's one of the few Fresh Gardens that actually traverses both a garden and a 'fresh take on a concept', and very well too and by no means an easy feat. This garden was to illustrate what it may be to be blind, rather than a garden for blind people. From within the perspex box water cascades over the sides distorting the view. Along one side coloured plastic changed the way the garden appeared. Interesting ideas and well executed.

Modern, vibrant, colourful, architectural, innovative, good planting too. Very fresh!

Himalayan Rock Garden - Bronze Medal

For a brief moment I thought this were two separate gardens then I quickly realised this was just one. It's supposed to be a contemporary take of a rock garden but it had too many elements in one space and was rather rough around the edges.

The City of London Corporation Oak Processionary Moth Garden - Silver Medal

Before I read anything about this garden my first thoughts were, frost fleece??

It turned out the shrouds were to symbolise dead trees killed by the moths... But as a fresh garden, pushing the boundary.... hmmm maybe not.

Cave Pavilion in support of Garden Museum - Silver Medal

An art installation more than a garden, full of beautiful plants. We spent a lot of time chatting where this one is that we forgot to take photos of the 'box' from a distance. I can imagine this sort of thing in as an installation outside, just by entrance of Tate Modern Gallery.

The box itself is designed to be a modern Wardian case the relevance and importance of plant collecting in the 21st century. The plants inside are all collections by Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones from Crug Farm, who it turns out have made well over 16,000 seed colections on numerous trips over the years. I wonder what exciting plants they have collected that have still to make it into commercial production, one can only imagine!

The World Vision Garden - Silver Medal

Pretty model, lovely dress, nice pots, nice exotic plants, good cause, but haven't we seen this concept of upside down plants too many times before? Not very fresh is it?

Playing on this concept, I wonder if Crug Farm would have allowed their plants to be used if the brief of the designer was to display the plants similar to the one above?

Probably not. Next...

The Gucci Garden - Silver Gilt Medal

I was hoping they will be handing out freebies to anyone passing by wearing something from Gucci...but alas that wasn't meant to be. A very Italian Chic display. Sarah Jessica Parker, is that you?? Really this was just a pleasant selection of cut flowers. Well it is called a "flower show" after all.

The Wellchild Garden - Silver Gilt Medal

We both liked this one a lot, again another garden that both traverses applicability and modern concepts very effectively. Without even reading the brief there was something endearing about this garden. Perhaps because of the cedar shingles, earth tones, calm water feature that suggests no nonsense serenity of space. I suspect we may borrow the shingle wall idea for our own garden in the future.

Reachout Garden - Gold Medal

I think this is a fantastic installation with a very strong sculpture as the highlight of it. The planting is of limited palette and inn swathes but it perfectly complements the geometric stones and fulfills the brief very nicely. I heard the sculpture will be placed in a public area for passers by to admire once the show is over which is a great thing. Well deserved gold.

London Square Garden - Gold Medal

A contemporary space, mixed with some tradition, and seating that is a work of art on its own. I can also imagine something like this being used in other urban green spaces, like the New York Highline and many others.

Seeing all the Fresh Gardens made me also think, is it necessary to have a separate 'Fresh Garden' category when 'fresh and innovative' designs can also be incorporated in the other categories?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

Thinking about it, there is an element of conservatism that prevails in the other categories especially when careers are at stake and designers are advertising themselves, hoping to bag clients with generous budgets. If you're not that established a garden designer yet then it's probably best not to be too risky with your presentation. But a separate category that embraces the risky, well anything goes (almost anyway) and it'll be allowed.

On that note I end this post with something that we easily spotted in one of the trade stands...

Whoever posed the mannequin more likely has a haughty sense of humour not too dissimilar to mine. And whoever this person is I like him/her already! Fresh!

Mark :-)


  1. I will take any giant round water-holding vessel any day, and huge cubes made out of anything: YES! The metal bench/sculpture is not too bad either, although when it's difficult to know if you should actually sit on it, it probably fails in some way.

    Great stuff! (parts of it I mean)

    1. I like that bench too Alan, it's inviting enough to sit on, and to look at when standing up :)

  2. I like the fact that Chelsea carves out the more avant-garde constructions so, as you mentioned at the outset, you approach them with a different set of glasses. I liked elements of the Wellchild garden, as well as the water box of the Mind's Eye Garden. For whatever reason - probably reflective of my California mindset - the Reachout Garden with its tilted stone cubes made me think of a post-earthquake environment.

    1. Those stone cubes are quite a statement aren't they Kris? A few elements taken from each, combined together makes for a good source of inspiration :)

  3. Your commentary was the best thing about the Fresh Gardens...

  4. Your Chelsea series of posts has been most enlightening! You were lucky in having good dry weather when you went and with less crowds were able to get some fantastic shots of the gardens. I dashed in on Tuesday afternoon but the grounds were so crowded I could barely see the gardens, just glimpses over people's heads! I'm going again tomorrow (Saturday) so will get there as the gates open - rain is forecast so at least now I'll know which gardens to seek out in between showers! Great cheeky commentary on the Fresh Gardens - you have to take the rough with the smooth it seems!

    1. Good idea to get there early Caro. We went on a Saturday last year and the crowds became even more dense as the hour passed. Do stay and witness the sell off if you can, quite fun to watch the commotion! Hopefully the weather won't be too wet.

      One can have fun giving commentary too :)

  5. I'd be drummed out of the grounds if I went to Chelsea. I don't usually watch gardening programmes but a couple of days ago a member of my family turned the TV on specially to see one about Chelsea. We had a great time laughing and I don't think I'd be able to keep the hilarity in if I were there in person. I like the metal sculpture of the girl with hair though. It's beautiful. (Not the green one!)

  6. The gardens were interesting. Not what I would traditionally select or anything but that's what is so nice is that there are so many ways to go to interest most people. I do enjoy seeing so many different things though.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  7. That has been a wonderful walk round Chelsea. I really admire your style in sacrificing your excellent taste to that event in the furtherance of our knowledge :-)

  8. If there are exotic plants like the ones from Crug Farm I like it :D

  9. I do love that cedar shingle wall, and the reach out garden struck me as being rather magical from the TV coverage. I refuse to comment on the last image for fear I will incriminate myself, but thank you, a very enjoyable take on the "Fresh" gardens.

  10. Thanks for the posts on this Chelsea thing. Quite interesting to see them all, even if they were not all equally interesting. Now if you really had a strange sense of humor, that green mannequin could have Sedum sprouting from the edges of her suit in strategic areas.


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