RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012: the gardens (2)

by Rhiannon James

Contemporary Contemplation designed by OneAbode Ltd

The conceptual category at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the place for designs that explore themes, ideas and issues beyond horticulture and two young city-based designers have taken the opportunity to reflect on two of the most difficult periods in London’s recent history.

Daniel Shea lives in Tottenham and his garden (Uprising, TH73) is a response to the riots that started on his doorstep last summer. A blaze of perennials and grasses rise up around dark towers, partly echoing the fires during the violence but also representing Daniel’s belief that using plants to soften the stark architecture of inner city areas could help to alleviate some of the problems that led to the riots. “You see a lot of places like Tottenham, they’re grey and shady and not very pretty. If there is any green space, it’s usually just a park which most people are scared to go into. I think the riots were partly a result of urban life – everyone has a short fuse and that’s partly because of a lack of any contact with nature – everything’s concrete and people are on top of each other. Planting can help to relieve tensions and aggression and promote community spirit,” Daniel says. The design on the back wall of the garden has a positive message too – it’s reverse graffiti which involves removing dirt using a pressure washer rather than applying paint with a spray can.


The seventh anniversary of the 7/7 bombings is approaching and designer Matthew Childs ,who was seriously injured in the blast at Edgware Road station, reflects on his experience in his garden (Light at the End of the Tunnel, TH70). A gradually fragmenting tunnel cleverly suggests an explosion or a speeding train from the outside but from the inside, it reflects his journey from the darkness of the original trauma to recovery. The planting is similarly about transition, moving from ferns and mosses inside the tunnel through plants for semi-shade to soft, billowing sun-lovers outside including Stipa tenuissima and Gypsophila paniculata ‘Bristol Fairy’.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

While some gardens tackle urban anger and anxiety head on, others offer a place of escape. Contemporary Contemplation (GW8) from OneAbode and Morgan & Neal is a restful city garden that uses repetition and a restricted palette of green and white to create a harmonious, tranquil effect. “We often work with textures rather than colour,” says the garden’s designer Daniel McCarthy. “We’ve used box balls to give evergreen, all year-round structure and a lot of the ferns are evergreen too because in urban gardens, every square inch counts. In rural gardens you have the space to have big herbaceous borders that you’re really only going to walk through in the summer but in urban gardens, you’re looking out on them all year round.” The patterns of circles and lines in the garden, created by the box balls, white agapanthus and silver birch, are picked up again in the steel panels that run across the decking and through the planting to a rather charming “seat of contemplation” in the dappled shade of the trees.

Contemporary Contemplation

Roger Smith from Garden House Design uses the same relaxing green and white palette for his retreat in the urban jungle (“live outdoors”, PK79). Densely planted tree ferns, bamboos and grasses create a private spot for cooking, eating and entertaining while greenery trailing down tropically from the pergola’s beams enhances the feeling of seclusion without blocking out the light. “The idea of the garden is that you’re in central London surrounded by high-rise buildings and you want to get away, so the garden is very lush and green and calming. The flower colours are quite subtle – rodgersia, tiarella and cenolophium just add dots of softness,” Roger says.

“live outdoors”

The Coastal Drift garden (PAL350), winner of Wyevale East Nurseries Student Design and Build Award 2011, offers an escape to the sea. Intended to be part of a larger garden close to the coast, Adele Ford and Susan Willmott’s design would also work well on a roof top or small plot where the waves of grasses would fill the space with soothing movement and sound. “The idea is that the driftwood deck is floating on the sea but instead of putting in a pool, we’ve used plants to represent the water through colour, movement and form. So, for example, we’ve used white flowers for the sea foam and foliage textures that look like coral,” Adele says. This careful planting, in combination with the bold, wave-inspired wall design makes for a cool, contemporary take on the coastal trend.

The Coastal Drift garden

Look out for part three of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show review tomorrow.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012 runs until Sunday 8th July at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Hampton-Court-Palace-Flower-Show/2012


2 Responses to “RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012: the gardens (2)”

  1. Diligent Gardener

    There was a great selection of gardens this year. The live Outdoors garden was my own fave!

  2. Mark and Gaz

    Coastal Drift and Live Outdoors are both lovely gardens.

    The light at the end of the tunnel was an interesting concept and very interesting to see it in person.

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