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Preparation and Anticipation

Posted by Tony Smith on 14 Feb 2010 at 03:20 PM

Show gardens are all about planning and preparation, and to this end we have spent the last couple of weeks constructing The Plantaholic's Kitchen Garden in kit form so that it can be quickly reassembled at the show, when time is of the essence. We will also tweak, and hopefully perfect, the finer details that we hope will impress the judges.

The studwork frame is now finished and the roof on, allowing us to get a feel for the sheltered, secluded atmosphere we want to create at Chelsea.

It may seem a contradiction in terms to try and create a secluded private garden at a show visited by 157,000 people but I think this is one of the main issues facing designers of show gardens. The public have to be able to see the garden, but at the same time if you can see everything in one glance, it's not likely to be very interesting.

In a real garden we can partition, divide, interrupt, obscure and frame to our heart's content, safe in the knowledge that each area, vista and feature will in good time reveal itself to the viewer as they explore.

A show garden has to work when viewed from the outside by the public, as well as from inside when inspected by the judges. It's a fine line.

In Andy Sturgeon's 2008 Chelsea garden he used a surprisingly dense planting of Dicksonia and Nothofagus around the perimeter, causing the viewer to glimpse the delights within, through fronds and branches. It was almost magical!

I find myself at times obsessed with this relationship between what we can and can't see, both in the garden and in life.

We always seem to want to see and know more but as soon as something comes fully into view, it loses much of its appeal. It's a very human dilemma. 

What's better, anticipation or gratification?

Looking at the world from the far side of forty, I now know it's the former.


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