SGD/APL – WINNER, SOCIETY OF GARDEN DESIGNERS PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION
In order to highlight the synergy between the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) and Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) these two leading professional organizations teamed up with Bradstones to run a competition to design and build a Show Garden for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The competition was open to any Registered Member of the Society of Garden Designers, with 2008 APL award winners subsequently selected to undertake the build.
The garden had been given the title of “the Traveller’s Garden” but the brief was completely open as to how any designer approached it. I had been becoming increasingly interested in the creation of mood and atmosphere, having had one of those moments of clarity where I suddenly realised that despite being ‘an artist’ my primary mode is feeling and that the visual is merely a tool to be used to create an emotion. It was therefore these ideas and themes that I decided to explore in the garden.
‘IS THERE ANYBODY THERE?’ SAID THE TRAVELLER,
KNOCKING ON THE MOONLIT DOOR
I decided to use Walter de la Mare’s moody and dark poem as inspiration for the garden, and set about conceptualising the space from the key feelings that the poem generated. I realised that most people take it for granted that a garden will make you feel good, because this is what we expect to feel when we enter one. Much of what I designed, therefore, was to create the opposite emotion; I wanted to make a space that felt in many ways uncomfortable. And so I designed bridges that blocked your path, brooding columns (‘the listeners’), a pale and eerie planting scheme and a dark woodland.
AND HIS HORSE IN THE SILENCE CHAMPED THE GRASSES
OF THE FOREST’S FERNY FLOOR
I struggled with one design element, though – the pathway through the garden – until I went to the Tate Modern to see the Rothko’s and sat in front of Red on Purple with its continuous ‘path’ and knew I had my answer – a never-ending pathway that you can’t get onto and can’t get off, that takes you from dark to light on a journey that takes you nowhere but never ends.
In passing, I discovered after I’d completed the design that there have been many comparisons between ‘The Third Policeman’ (Flann O’Brian, great book) and ‘The Listeners’ and so the pathway was even more appropriate than I realised when I designed it – you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it!
AND THE SILENCE SURGED SOFTLY BACKWARD
WHEN THE PLUNGING HOOFS WERE GONE
For pictures of the finished garden, look under the Hampton Court entries in the awards or portfolio section.