Magazine article The Spectator

Rollover, Makeover

Magazine article The Spectator

Rollover, Makeover

Article excerpt

I do not have much objection to television garden-makeover programmes, strangely enough. It is certainly odd for anyone to think that it is possible, let alone desirable, to make a garden in a weekend and expect it to stay made, but I see the point of encouraging a youngish generation, with no background in gardening, to have a go and find out for themselves the satisfactions inherent in the process.

There is, however, one way in which most TV gardening does thoughtful gardeners no favour. Proper, grown-up, contemporary garden design is obscured by the emphasis on DIY decking, solar-powered water 'features' and glass-bead gravel. Only at Chelsea Show time does it emerge briefly, like the lazy fin of a carp breaking the surface of a deep pool. The first Modern Gardens Day, held on the last Saturday in June, was intended to show that much else is possible - with thought, creativity and often, although not always crucially, with oodles of dosh.

Because of the jejune nature of television gardening, gardeners can he forgiven for thinking that nothing very momentous has happened to public and private gardening in the past 20 years. But that is far from the case. For a start, garden design is now an accepted and respected profession, with its own Society and Journal. Perhaps because of this, a number of strong 20th-century traditions have been losing their grip. The Jekyll planting tradition has given ground, as its high-maintenance impracticality becomes ever more glaring and we finally become bored with harking back to that Edwardian golden afternoon. The 'new perennial planting' is well established in the mainstream, thanks in particular to Keith Wiley, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. We have also become much less insular. Foreign designers, such as Alain Provost and Alain Cousseran (Thames Barrier Park), Piet Oudolf (Scampston Hall and Pensthorpe) and Wirtz père et fils (Alnwick Castle and Jubilee Tube station, Canary Wharf), are praised and feted.

Strict minimalism, formalism with a contemporary twist to it, and adventurous naturalism all seem acceptable these days. Although pre-war Modernism never took the hold in this country that it did on the Continent (perhaps because concrete looks so drab in the rain), it does not mean we do not appreciate asymmetry or the abstract, and we certainly respond favourably to, for example, Charles Jencks's sinuous landforms at Portrack and Edinburgh's Gallery of Modern Art. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.