Unearthing New Talent and Pushing the Boundaries of Garden Design

Unearthing New Talent and Pushing the Boundaries of Garden Design
Conceptual Gardens, sponsored by Cater Allen Private Bank, at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (3-8 July), organised by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), are set to showcase fresh talent and push the boundaries of garden design.  The category, which is unique to Hampton and in its second year, provides a platform for up-and-coming designers, where they can be as imaginative and radical as they want.

For the first time the RHS went outside its pool of judges and invited award winning journalists, well known garden designers and television gardening experts to select five designs from over 20 entrants.  The selection panel, headed up Andrew Wilson, RHS judge, comprised of James Alexander-Sinclair, TV presenter and gardening journalist, Diarmuid Gavin, leading garden designer and recent Chelsea Silver-Gilt medal winner, and award winning gardening journalist Stephen Anderton.

Speaking about the category and selected designs, Diarmuid said, “Starting out in garden design is tough and this category, and the financial support provided by Cater Allen*, allows new designers, many fresh out of college, the opportunity to showcase their talent, be as creative as they want and to reach a huge and diverse audience.

“From a conceptual art installation, which is suggestive of a digestive tract, includes 4 million lettuces and challenges our perception about how we digest food and information, to a ‘plant cemetery’, with grave headstones, that highlights the scale of British Wildflower annihilation; these gardens aim to surprise, excite and stimulate debate.”

London’s Sim Flemons and John Warland’s, ‘The Fallen’, highlights the eradication of British Wildflowers since World War II.  It is also a tribute to the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that uses native wildflower species wherever possible.  Billowing planting in hazy drifts of pastel shades contrast with the symmetrical design of the wildflower grave headstones.  Both the designers of this garden share the view that gardens are not just beautiful spaces, but also somewhere to inspire contemplation, discussion and debate. 

In Digestion’, designed by Tony Smith from West Sussex, contains a tunnel-like structure, with planted cut-out sections – almost like slides under a microscope – that allow a closer study of different aspects of the digestion process.  Millions of lettuces surround the structure, which is indicative of a digestive track, and telescopes at the garden boundaries allow a close view of carnivorous plants and even the chance to watch them devouring insects. 

The ‘Freedom of Movement’ garden, created by Marcus Green from Northamptonshire, celebrates the close connection between dance movement and plant movement in the garden.  Although the design is predominantly sculpture, which is inspired by Henry Moore, the planting within the framework of static shapes lives, breathes and moves continuously.  Seas of grasses are interspersed by coloured plants such as eucalyptus genus, cornus, corylus and continus.  The colour scheme is inspired by the abstract hues found in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern. 

‘Advertising Space’, designed by Steven Wooster, from London, is a garden that reflects today’s obsession with advertising on any available space, from the back of a car parking ticket, to giant hoardings, airplanes and even on The Houses of Parliament.  The key theme of the design is a famous brand.  The planting and the rustic, reclaimed materials used provide a stark contrast to the hi-tech product the garden represents. 

Inspired by Russian artist, Malevich, Rik Godfrey from Kent, created, ‘After Malevich’, a garden that directly appeals to the senses.  The aim of the design is to reduce the garden to a series of intangibles – colour, reflection, movement, light and shadow.  Clever use of one plant genus – Stipa arundinaceous – and stainless steel mirrors will leave the garden viewer with a feeling of mesmeric calm. 

Richard Dunn, Managing Director, Cater Allen Private Bank says: “Cater Allen Private Bank was delighted to be invited to sponsor the Conceptual Garden Category at the Hampton Court Flower Show for the second year running.  Not only was last year the first time that aspirational, young garden designers were able to display their skills at Hampton Court, but it was also the first time that Cater Allen had such a high level of involvement in a horticultural event.  The Experience was such a success for us that the decision to continue our sponsorship for a second year was a foregone conclusion.”

For tickets to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (3-8 July) call 0870 842 2227 or book online at  3-4 July are reserved for RHS members and their guests, with all welcome 5-8 July.  Ticket info: Tickets range from £13 - £30 with children aged 5-15 £5 (except Tues 3) and under 5s free throughout the show.  Full-day or afternoon only tickets are available.  Car-parking available, or take the greener option and arrive by train, bus or ferry.  See for full transport options and further visitor details.
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