Creating a garden for an RHS Show is always such a privilege and also a huge challenge. The garden for the Institute of Quarrying is the second largest garden I have made to date. To give a size comparison, it is roughly the size of one and a half Chelsea Main Avenue show gardens.
The garden has a number of complex elements and ideas. It is, of course, inspired by the beauty of the quarrying landscape. The savage and the exquisite sitting side by side in harmony and to be enjoyed. The garden is made to compliment a home of a young couple who have built a house and want to create a garden.
I was inspired to design this garden by a combination of factors. Creating a beautiful garden space using the life cycle of a quarry, drawing attention to the impressive biodiversity which often inhabits quarries and quarrying landscapes and the unapologetic forms of brutalist design to mention a few. Native birds and self seeding plants and wildflowers will inhabit the quarry at the end of its useful life and this has directly influenced the range of plants used, as a mixture of native and non-native simple structured plants which increase biodiversity are the core of the plant selection.
In the garden I wanted to contrast the seemingly fragile beauty of annual and herbaceous flowering plants with what feels like monolithic slabs of concrete and stone. Importantly for my own design evolution on a show ground I wanted to make a garden which was highly three dimensional from the moment you encountered it. As such the garden is raised by a granite stone step. In total over 80m of granite steps will be created to elevate the garden from the Chatsworth show site.
Two cast concrete 2.5m high walls direct the garden in combination with slate upright monoliths. These, whilst softened by the mixed plantings, are strong vertical lines which lift the eye up and across the garden. There is also a deep sunken area at the heart of the garden, naturally evoking the extraction phase. It is over 8m in width and descends below 1m over a series of stepped ledges to a still pool. The space is stark and intended to feel beautifully empty and also serene.
The final section of the garden is inspired by the unique light cast in quarry spaces. Shadows and light play a huge part in inspiring artists and this is reflected in this garden. This area is formal and created using a series of carved stone spaces. The stone has been donated by the Chatsworth estate as this element will form the backbone of the garden’s legacy as after the show it is being recreated at the National Memorial Arboretum. This is where it will remain for the visitors to the Arboretum to use for reflection when visiting.
The garden will be a huge challenge, but alongside the other artists and craftsmen working on this project I hope to create a space which will inspire people to engage with quarries and rethink their ideas of what these remarkable areas of nature can be.