Last week we bid goodbye to Hampton Court Palace for another year, an instance made more lamentable by the beautiful weather with which the show had been graced – something we can all appreciate after last summer’s washout!
Thankfully it was with sunshine in mind that many of this year’s winners were designed and this unwavering optimism in the face of adversity is no more apt than in the ‘Macmillan Legacy Garden’.
Sponsored by the cancer support group, this garden was created with an idea to both metaphorically, and physically realise the tribulation of living with a terminal illness – whether these realisations be through the two dimensional mirror figures – representative of Macmillan care staff – or the Dostoevsky-esque abyss at its centre, symbolising the terror of the disease itself.
Personally, I found the structure of the seating area most evocative, as its shaded aspect seemed indicative of the comfort one must seek in the shadow of an idea so oppressive; a garden both mature and respectful in its painfully frank design.
Continuing with this theme of optimism and resistance to misfortune we have the QEF’s (Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People) ‘Garden For Joy’, a notably less clinical affair with more of an eye toward the pastoral, dominated by expanses of meadow grass and wild flowers, and wonderfully arranged bubble pattern paving.
Immediately striking is its simplistic and therapeutic nature, with this last aspect heightened all the more by the presence of two seating areas that invite rest from its visitors. The encouragement of the foundation for all of its wards’ achievements is realised in every aspect of the garden – and given physical form in the aforementioned bubble of its pathway, along with airborne bubbles are regularly emitted from well concealed sources. Even the shape of the pathway speaks to the conscientiousness and innovation of the QEF, using the first letter of their acronym in the shape of the pathway to avoid unnecessary turning for wheelchair users. And as the foundation has explained, the bubble motif not only represents of the variety of achievement within the foundation but also the uplifting nature of their work.
Finally, how else to finish our Hampton Court sojourn but with a mention of the top competitor and winner of the coveted Best Show Garden award? The ‘Ecover Garden’, designed by Matthew Childs, a successful competitor at last year’s show, is a horticultural love letter to our planets most important resource, water.
Not unlike Floral and Hardy’s 2008 Hampton Court motif, Childs employs an array of recycled materials in order to accentuate the need for sustainable living, while the layout of the garden itself lends particular significance to this philosophy with regard to water. Many of the gardens features comprise decommissioned Ecover products in order to exemplify their stake and innovation within the field of sustainability, and the planting scheme is meant to personify the journey of water itself, although a small pool also provides a literal presence.
It takes little imagination to see the value of gardens like these, given the threat of ecological disaster if we are not take Childs’ ideas seriously.
By Josh Ellison