Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For All the Grand Designs, a Garden Should Be Where You'd like to Be

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For All the Grand Designs, a Garden Should Be Where You'd like to Be

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

FIRST things first. This year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a knockout. It's the greatest garden display in the world, from its 17 show gardens to its smaller artisan gardens and inventive fresh gardens, and the incredible displays of plantsmanship in the Great Pavilion. Anybody with any interest in gardening will find inspiration, whether a single plant or a whole scheme.

The coverage on television, for all those who can't get in to this hugely oversubscribed event, is rapturous, as if everything that can be done in the way of gardening is good, by definition.

Garden, garden, garden! Who could find fault with that? Who wants to criticise? Yet if gardening is an act of taste, it can be in bad taste as well as good. Chelsea, being the premier show both for designers and growers, the opportunity of a lifetime, pushes its exhibitors always to make the maximum impact possible, to stand out and be noticed. And that's a pressure that sometimes leads to grotesquerie, even at the level of individual plants, bred into lurid novelty, far away from the beauty of the species. There are irises, begonias, heucheras and chrysanthemums here that amount to an atrocity exhibition. Designs too.

Diarmuid Gavin's Harrods British Eccentrics Garden is, quite openly, a joke. Around an octagonal folly, there appears to be a pretty classic garden of terraces, borders and topiary. Then, every 15 minutes, it goes mad. Box balls bob up and down, big clipped bay trees twirl around, planters rise to the first-floor windows. It's an Alice in Wonderland or, as Gavin says, Heath Robinson, delirium and an extraordinary technical feat. Fine: this horticultural circus is fun, what many people will remember years later from this Chelsea.

Yet other show gardens are equally overdesigned without any such sense of humour, overburdened with significance, striving to project the values of their sponsors. …

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