Thursday, 28 June 2012

Chelsea 2012: (Not So) Fresh Gardens

This year Chelsea had a new category of gardens on show, replacing their Urban Gardens, but we didn’t think the Fresh Gardens were an improvement, although there were a few good ideas.

Our favourite was the Renault Garden, designed by James Basson, and inspired by the South of France. It won a Silver Gilt Medal.

The very small site used columns of pudding stone (made from a waste aggregate – everything was made from recycled material, including chairs made from old plastic bottles).

The pudding stone is made up of pebbles, gravel, clay fines and cement, mixed with water and poured into a formwork. He also used pebble paving. Planting included: thymes (Thymus vulgaris and Thymus ciliatus), Euphorbia spinosa, Centranthus ruber, Cistus albidus, and Doryonium pentaphyllum.

We also liked the Rainbows Children’s Hospice Garden, designed by Chris Gutteridge, Ant Cox and Jon Owens. This Silver Medal winner was designed as a place of reflection and relaxation.

We liked the large frosted acrylic screens forming the boundary walls, where you could see silhouettes of plants and people as they passed.

Four multi-stemmed amelanchier lamarckii trees gave height to the garden, and there were lots of orange geums (as there were on several other gardens), yellow and copper-coloured irises, and grasses like Stipa tenuissima.

Instead of a lawn there was a carpeting of Gallium (or sweet woodruff) interspersed with York stone paving.

The Soft Machine garden wasn’t particularly attractive, but did incorporate some good ideas.

This Silver Gilt Medal winner was designed by Tomaz Bavdez as a place for processing and recycling waste.
It was inspired by the William Burroughs novel of the same name, where 'soft machine' is a synonym for the human body. In the garden humans help to pump waste water to the top of the modular plastic living walls and filtering units while using an exercise bike.

It is mainly bog-style planting, with both ground and the plants in the wall operating as additional water filters.

The only Gold Medal winner, and the Best Fresh Garden, was the cage-like Green with … - a largely artificial garden designed by Tony Smith and sponsored by Easigrass, an artificial grass company (although it did also include orchids, tulips and ferns). Not somewhere you could really live with, although it looked better lit up at night, with the central Perspex columns glowing red.

A spiral glass and metal sculpture on the Bradstone Panache Garden

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