The World’s Smallest Garden Show
by Rhiannon James
Coast: Jim Fogarty
The planting is a little static, the hard landscaping choices are perhaps a bit synthetic and the visitors allowed past the barriers are dauntingly silent – but all of that’s okay in these particular show gardens as they’re only half a square metre in size.
With plots exactly a fiftieth of the size of those on Main Avenue, the MiNiATURE Show at the Strand Galleries, London, has given some well-known Chelsea designers the chance to showcase their more outré ideas in the form of tiny models.
There are walls of water and Washingtonias; catwalks and blackened cones lined with gold leaf; and rain-catchers and ribbon sculptures depicting beach towels flapping in the wind, all rendered in painstaking detail using a mixture of 3D printing and traditional modelling.
Andrew Fisher Tomlin, one of the organisers of the show, points out that these models are no cheap substitute for the real thing however. “These models are amazingly expensive to make. There are models here which would cost you £4000 to £5000. They are pieces of art.”
Some of the designers have embraced the opportunity to escape the constraints of budgets, client demands and the laws of physics more wholeheartedly than others. Wilson McWilliam Studio’s design for example celebrates the sickly fascination of vertiginous drops. A boulder balances precariously between two outcrops of rock while tiny figures, who we’re assured were unharmed in the construction, teeter on the precipitous edges.
Jihae Hwang, who created the memorable Quiet Time DMZ Forbidden Garden at Chelsea in 2012, has contributed a conceptual design “A letter posted one million years ago”, which draws its inspiration from the Japan/South Korea disputed Dokdo islets in the East Sea and incorporates frozen wave shapes as a metaphor for life.
Other designs take the city as their theme. Australian designer Myles Baldwin has responded to the shortage of land in cities by creating a sinuous s-shaped structure which offers multi-level living and growing space, starting with a cool shaded area at its base rising to an airy viewing platform and topped with a lush layer of plants suited to surviving on shallow exposed sites.
Adam Frost’s more classic design is for an urban community garden with a strong focus on the value of wildlife corridors through the city maze.
Other models are actually a realisation of long-cherished ideas that have not yet come to fruition. Andrew Fisher Tomlin said,” Sarah Eberle actually designed her garden originally for M & S at Chelsea and has always wanted to build it “.MiNiATURE has provided the opportunity to realise at last her urban courtyard with a catwalk albeit in a different form.
The show is set to embark on an international tour after its brief residence at the Strand Gallery, taking in the Garden World Cup in Japan as well as Holland, Sweden, America and Australia . There will be new contributors from each of the countries visited and Fisher Tomlin looks forward to the designs evolving as the show progresses so that on its return to the UK for the RHS event in London in the autumn, the show will be daringly different. “By the time it comes back to London, it’ll be totally new gardens. It’s really captured people’s imaginations,” he said.