Thursday, 9 March 2017

Chelsea Physic Garden - Chelsea, London, UK

I have been busy designing gardens, sending out quotes and booking landscape projects in so that people have a beautiful new space ready for them to use this summer. After a busy few weeks and lots of time either at my desk or zipping around London's busy streets I was completely enriched by a visit to this enchanting walled garden.

This garden feels friendly and beguiling at the same time; it's intimate size and old established plants feel traditional and welcoming but you soon realise that the every part of this space is filled with history and the ghosts of some of the most important and powerful people of the past. The both grand and bountiful red brick mansion house of Chelsea encircle the garden and created a unique backdrop to the space.

There is an almost ridiculous entanglement of epic history in every part of the garden. The pond and rockery being the perfect example of this. The rockery in itself is pleasant enough but not dissimilar to many you might come across in various stately homes or historical parks but when you learn that this is the oldest rockery in the whole of the Western World it seems to appear differently. Its rocks are not just dug up from around the garden but are made up old pieces of The Tower of London; the giant shells adorning the pond are not just shells from the beach but came from Captain Cook's expeditions; the plants are not just grown from seeds collected from a garden but were bought back from expeditions of unknown lands by Sir Hans Sloane (whom Sloane Square is named after) over 300 years ago.

The garden was first created in 1673 and formed part of what we know as The Enlightenment when we started looking at the wold through a more scientific lens. During the past 344 years plants have continued to grow uninterrupted at this site. Unlike visiting a stuffy museum and viewing items from behind a rope or through glass you can actually see, touch and smell the past here.
An old pomegranate tree has been happily growing against a sunny wall in the garden for hundreds of years. It has steadily and surely flowered, fruited and dropped it's seed without any fuss while the city around it has seen Kings, Queens and wars come and go with so much trouble and strife.

After walking around the garden and absorbing the subtle magnificence of the space it would have been wrong to leave without lingering and contemplating the landscape. After the long winter we have had, being able sit out and feel the warm rays of the sun on your face felt like the return of a wise old friend that you hadn't seen for a long time.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Gardens by the Bay - Singapore

Walking around Singapore feels like the opening of a utopian Hollywood film set in a futuristic metropolis; I have not found a place so awe-inspiring for a long time. The Gardens by the Bay continued the futuristic appearance with a sprinkling of magic and wonder.

As you walk past two skyscrapers with a giant ship spanning the lofty gap between them you know this city's garden is not going to be your usual herbaceous planting and formal layout. Here you find a giant super-tree grove, huge futuristic glasshouses, a forest, gardens inspired from around the world and many other eccentric artifice.

One day is not enough time to explore the wonders of this garden and with the temperature well into the 30's and humidity at an unbearable level, the sound of a cooled 'Cloud Forest' dome seemed like the best place to start. Heading in I expected an air-conditioned, 'Eden project' style space but what met me was a futuristic world complete with man-made clouds and a waterfall taller than any natural one I have ever seen.

The temperate environment in the Cloud Forest results in a huge range of plants living happily together from all corners of the globe. Plants that we may know as annual bedding such as Busy Lizzie and Begonia create carpets under large magnolia and tree ferns.

I have created some green walls and seen them used in many different ways in London but here they cover a central monolith as if an abandoned high-rise has been reclaimed by nature.

The sculptures at this garden seem dwarfed by their surroundings but they are stand alone works of art in their own right. Fabulous oriental lions and dragons carved into huge ancient trees emerge from the undergrowth or proudly guard the entrances from evil sprits. An intricate depiction of the world takes an unimposing position in the garden but has such detail and evocative representation of water, earth and sky that in any other place it would take pride of place.

You leave the dome through an educational centre displaying disturbing and thought provoking facts about our own destruction of the planet and it's plants. As the above sculpture alludes to; the world is on our hands.