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77 Year Old Entrepreneur Debuts at The Chelsea Flower Show 2007

77 Year Old Entrepreneur Debuts at The Chelsea Flower Show 2007
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77 Year Old Entrepreneur Anthony Samuelson Debuts at The Chelsea Flower Show 2007 and then that Bentley at Hampton Court!

77 year old Londoner Tony Samuelson has not had an idle day in his life, even in his retirement he cannot sit still and has taken on the challenge of designing a Roof Garden for the Chelsea Flower Show 2007.  The Chelsea Flower Show in its 145 year history has never showcased a garden quite like Tony’s ‘Roof Garden With Found Objects’. A Gainsborough painting, erotic art, show room mannequins, a rubber chicken and the famous Biba dog designed for Barbara Hulanicki all have a role to play in what is definitely an unorthodox, possibly kitsch but certainly an innovative and inspired entry to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Last Spring whilst researching a Guide to Erotic Art in London’s National Gallery he had the idea of incorporating his findings in his back garden patio. Tony found himself lost in the art theme and instead of conventional pots, troughs and trugs, plants were invited to make themselves at home in an eclectic assortment of what, in art, are known as objets trouvés, (ready-mades - found objects - arte povera). Tony talks of “Patio Poveristi” - people like him who see the beauty in recycling discarded fashion wear, empty plastic bottles and similar domestic detritus which would otherwise go to swell the landfills. “You can buy a large lady’s handbag at a car boot sale for 50p,” says Samuelson, “plant it with trailing plants, hang it up by its strap - and it looks fantastic.”

The erotic art book was put on hold and Tony has now embarked on a book about his unique form of gardening. It will be called A Gardener’s Guide to Arte Povera – How to put Pizzazz into your Patio! A plan to show-case the new style of patio gardening with a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show quickly gathered momentum and resulted in an acceptance from the Royal Horticultural Society for a roof garden at this year’s show and an additional acceptance to do a full sized show garden for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show which takes place in July.

Tony’s years spent trying to put the National Gallery’s extensive collection of ravishing Renaissance beauties into a sensual league table have exerted more than a passing influence on the content of the Chelsea garden.   Its theoretical ‘owner’ is a young ‘twenty-something’ taking advantage of a lifestyle unfettered by any serious emotional relationships.

A double hammock with Clematis Montana growing up the supporting tubular structure is a natural starting point for an expedition into horticultural hedonism!

One can only imagine with what misgivings Mr and Mrs Andrews, from the National Gallery’s iconic painting by Gainsborough (represented in the garden by two “found” mannequins) have concerning their new surroundings! Mr Andrews (as in the painting) is accompanied by a dog, but the dog that goes to Chelsea will stand eight feet high. He is the famous Othello who graced the food hall at Biba and later fell on hard times standing outside Billy Smart’s Circus Big Top - displaying programmes instead of cans of dog food. At Chelsea the cans of dog food will be back but this time acting as containers for a gleaming white shirt front comprised of Sweet Alyssum. Mrs Andrews, who has a bare patch in her dress which Gainsborough famously left unpainted, has been provided with a rubber chicken to preserve her modesty. The rubber chicken (the first ever at the Chelsea Flower Show) is of course planted with Sage.

Anthony Samuelson has assembled an expert planting team - “a sort of horticultural S.A.S” he says - made up of Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2001 Tudor Rose and RHS gold medal winner Daniel Lloyd Morgan and Capel Manor College trained landscape designer Lorna Mablin. 

A warts-and-all Gardening Blog recording the trials and tribulations of an apprentice gardener, whose first task will be to create a roof top garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and a show garden at Hampton Court, will form part of a new web site. Scheduled to go on line from Wednesday 14 March. www.Samuelson.co.uk will also extensively document the art references associated with the “found objects” in the two gardens. In the case of Chelsea many of the references are erotic. Hampton Court, which Tony thinks will if anything be even more sensational than Chelsea, will by contrast be one for all the family – an unforgettable flower show experience. And he promises that, like the gardens, the web site will be like no other. “Otherwise I wouldn’t put my name on it,” he says.

Objets Trouvés at The Chelsea Flower Show 2007

The roof garden designed by 77 year old novice gardener Tony Samuelson for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show will turn more than a few heads when the show opens on 22 May 2007.  Chelsea is about design and all things horticultural but most of all it’s about plants and the plants on this garden are growing out of all manner of rare, beautiful, common and utilitarian objects that Tony Samuelson has collected over the course of his exciting life.

The garden is a realistic representation of a roof top space with a tall chimney stack, chimney pots, TV aerials, satellite dishes, drain pipes and cables in abundance. There are walls on three sides and railings along the front. Imagine if you will that the garden belongs to a hedonistic young man well grounded in the history of art and things will become clear! 

76 different plant varieties feature on this garden, including a tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica), planted in an old rusty water tank, a double hammock with Clematis Montana growing up the supporting tubular structure and a wild flower meadow planted with Cornflower Blue Carpet (Centaurea cyanoides), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) beneath it.

A Gainsborough painting entitled Mr & Mrs Andrews is represented by a pair of show room mannequins whose hair pieces are planted up with grasses (carex comans bronze) and spotted deadnettle (lamium maculatum ‘white nancy’) respectively.  Mrs Andrews’ eighteenth century pannier dress is a colourful carpet of viola and the rubber chicken which adorns her lap (surely not an allusion to the Tate Gallery’s Chicken Knickers by Brit artist Sarah Lucas?} sprouts Salvia offiicinalis – well no chicken is properly dressed without sage! Mr Andrews is himself an edible feast of fenugreek, wheat grass, white radish, various sprouts and red clover.

Near to Mr and Mrs Andrews, secured high up on the chimney, is a yellow ladder-back chair with sun flowers growing up through the rush seat – a clear reference to two pictures by van Gogh.  The two sunflower varieties in van Gogh’s sunflower paintings are represented by Sahin's Helianthus ‘Little Dorrit’ and Sahin's Helianthus ‘Orange Sun’.  On the right hand wall an upside-down tomato plant tumbles out of the bottom of a giant ketchup bottle. 

The famous eight foot tall Biba Great Dane designed for Barbara Hulanicki will make a long overdue public appearance as the dog from the Gainsborough painting, his dog food tins will overflow with sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)  ‘Cow Girl’ is a plastic pot swathed in a brown suede mini skirt with a vintage blow lamp (notches down the barrel) slung from the belt and planted with Opuntia vulgaris  (Prickly pear), the official plant of the State of Texas


‘TV Boy’ is Samuleson’s modern day re-incarnation of Ganymede (cup holder to the gods). Here he holds aloft a portable television receiver for the benefit of occupants of the hammock. He carries it like a waiter carries a tray loaded with food. From the neck upwards he is a plant container for a combination of Silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum) and Black Tulip (Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’).

 ‘Girl Table’ is named after a famous work by Allen Jones, this version consists of a transparent plastic cylinder-sectioned table top with three chromium legs. The front two legs wear stripped socks for reasons of modesty which any Victorian couple with a youthful family and a grand piano in the drawing room would understand!  The socks are supported by a white suspender belt and a disjointed arm from a display model whose days of shop window glory lie in the past implies an on-hip “Come-on Big Boy!’ gesture. The pot is partly covered with a black basque with one dropped shoulder strap – a reminder of the scandal that transfixed Paris when John Singer Sargent’s portrait of a lady in a black dress, Madame X, went on display. Appropriately the pot is planted with Passiflora caerulea (Passion Flower).

A second table made from ex shop window found objects is called the Four-legged Table. A pair of male legs is (tastefully) juxtaposed with a pair of female legs, both naked to the hip, to produce a free-standing table with a two layer glass top. The tops of the legs are hollowed out to provide a container for a mixture of Liquorice (Helichrisum patiolare), Coral Bells – Palace Purple (Heuchera micrantha) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Black Knight’).

On the upper shelf stands a small Victorian bird cage within which are a pair of red suede silver buckled lady’s boots, planted with a mixture of Morning Glory (Convolvulus tricolor) and Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'). Those who know their art will be reminded of Diderot’s famous spat with the egregious painter Greuze.  Other unique planters include a table with two chairs, set for an intimate supper à deux with illumination from a three light chandelier made from recycled and modified carbonated drinks bottles planted with Petunia ‘Purple wave’.  A Boby trolley created by the designer Joe Colombo whose hinged drawers open to reveal sprouting seeds of various kinds in varying stages of germination including some ready for cropping and juicing!  A guitar is fixed upside down to the door and acts as a container for Twinspur (Diascias), Blue Lime Grass (Leymus arenarius) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia trifoliate).

Follow Tony’s progress to Chelsea via his gardening blog scheduled to go live in the course of the next few days.  www.Samuelson.co.uk


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