I love all gardens but I have to say contemporary gardens are my passion.
Sleek, sophisticated, often disciplined and nearly always made to be lived in, contemporary gardens get my vote every time.
Modern garden design in some circles is white, empty and sleek.
But I think it’s much more versatile. And so do the best garden designers around.
Each of the garden festivals I have visited this year have shown a wide range in garden style.
Sleek and uncluttered is certainly part of the picture. But I have to say this look is a characteristic of Australia in the main.
Jason Hodges ‘Spare Change Garden’, Paal Grant’s ‘Conversation’ and Ross Uebergang’s ‘Eden’ are all sleek and contemporary. The planting palette is sparse. Mostly green and clipped. The hard landscaping is structured and very much the feature of each garden. Jason’s garden is the softest but I have to say the flowers are limited to a few agapanthus and a flowering cherry.
The Chelsea gardens on the other hand show an amazing show of sophisticated planting of flowering plants. But this planting is very carefully pulled together and in most cases counterbalanced with strong architectural hardscaping and planting. Straight lines, clipped plants, strong green and amber foliage, structured water features and rocks underpin the gardens and give them strong clean lines.
In Singapore, tropical abundance shone throughout. Singapore is almost on the equator and the weather doesn’t really change through the year. It is hot and wet. Shade is important so large trees and palms give the gardens structure. Planting under these is tropical – plants we see indoors in most of the world.
However in every usable garden the lush foliage, orchids and tropical undergrowth was offset with strong pergolas and hardscaping in straight lines. Not a Bali Hut in sight.
‘Continental Drift’ by Sarah Eberie from the United Kingdom was an engineering feat with angular steel beams holding the gardens in place, ‘Open To Nature – Beyond Tradition’ by John Tan Chee Hian from Singapore celebrates the use of recycled materials, rusted metal used for the pergolas and artwork. ‘Upper Hand’ by Andy Sturgeon from the UK uses the flourishing tropical planting to note that ultimately the garden will get the upper hand.
- Some central themes through out all the shows are:
- The juxtaposition of the soft planting with formal straight form in the overall design, planting design and the structural landscaping.
- Using a limited palette of plants.
- Minimal use of garden ornamentation – let the gardens speak for themselves.
- Sustainable gardens. The specific topic of sustainability differed from country to country but all were strongly celebrating issues such as use of recycled materials, working to off-set climate change, land clearing, water conservation, planting local plants to bring back birds and bees. The list goes on.
Many of these topics will be covered in more detail in later weeks.