Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Chelsea 2012: The Westland Magical Garden

The Westland Magical Garden, designed by Diarmuid Gavin , won the RHS award for the Most Creative Show Garden, although it was only given a Silver Gilt Medal.

We thought it deserved better than that. Although we didn’t get a close up look – other than what we could see from the path and on the TV (the BBC was recording its piece on the pyramid while we were there) – we decided it should our Best In Show.

It was certainly the most imaginative garden we’ve ever seen at Chelsea (or any other show), and while its use of scaffolding made it look just as temporary as it really was, there is no reason why it could not be built as a permanent structure.

It reminded us a lot of Vienna’s KunstHausWien and Hundertwasser House (as seen on our Introduction to Living Roofs page), which are perfectly practical buildings in spite of their uneven floors, green roofs and trees growing out of the walls.

Gavin was inspired to create his 24m (almost 80ft) pyramid when he noticed the nearby Albert Bridge covered in scaffolding for restoration during Chelsea last year (when his floating, Avatar-inspired, Gold Medal-winning Irish Sky Garden was almost equally creative, if not as practical – or, if you prefer, even less practical….).

The seven-story garden, the largest ever to appear at Chelsea, incorporates many different gardens, from shade-loving plants at the bottom, to Mediterranean planting near the top, using more than 3,000 plants in all.

Although he wanted to build his own interpretation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, he also wanted to show how people could grow all sorts of different things in small urban spaces, such as on tower blocks, so that while it is certainly a flight of imagination, unlike his Sky Garden it is not a flight of fancy.

There were herb and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, a hidden, oriental-inspired garden, water features on every level (including a washing machine, in a shed, that was filled using rainwater).

Children were also provided for in the design, including a long, enclosed stainless steel tubular slide that ran from level five to the ground.

The base of the pyramid measured 16m x 16m (about 52 x 52feet), with almost 540sq metres devoted to planting on the seven levels.

At ground level, the plants included clipped box hedges (Buxus sempervirens), birch trees, bamboos, hostas and ferns.

The next level up added alliums and grasses, with a wider array of planting, such as herbaceous perennials and seasonal flowers in containers, added as the light increased with each level. The pyramid was topped off with birch trees, with gnarled, peeling bark.

There were also garden buildings on most levels, including sheds and greenhouses, plus a shower and bath with solar-powered hot water.

If you want to find out more about how the pyramid was constructed, Gavin has done a series of videos following the whole construction process.

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