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Artisans Gardens, Chelsea 2013

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

June 17, 2013

If you leave the frantic main display garden area of the Chelsea Flower Show and hike out to the back blocks, you’ll find a wonderful area of much smaller gardens slotted into the ‘Artisan’ category. The Chelsea FS guide describes these thus: “Using the tranquil wooded backdrop of Ranelagh Gardens, these gardens demonstrate what can be achieved in a small space. Designers have risen to the challenge and taken and artisan approach to their choice of materials and construction methods, resulting in these little gems.” Other than seeing that yes, they are definitely smaller gardens, I’m still none the wiser how exactly their criteria are distinguished from the main display gardens.

Peoples Choice Winner - Le Jardin de Yorkshire Design Alistair W Baldwin Associates

Peoples Choice Winner – Le Jardin de Yorkshire Design Alistair W Baldwin Associates

Many of them are sponsored by charities, and just as I pondered this question with the main display gardens, I felt uneasy at how much the charity’s cause can end-up inserting itself into the design. However I suppose you could argue that a good designer should be able to design a good garden to any brief, no matter how esoteric, and even be pushed into experimental territory by it.

Un Garreg (One Stone) Design Harry and David Rich

Un Garreg (One Stone) Design Harry and David Rich

Natural materials are still very much in vogue (all the concrete paver manufacturers must be groaning), with rough cut stone, timber, thatch and pebbles creating lots of strong textures. Colourwise there was a warm-tone trend this year and I revelled in the exuberant orange in the Wateraid garden after so much English pastel prettiness. Planting is very informal and still very ‘wildflower meadow’ which I don’t particularly like – it always looks one week away from messy disaster to me.

An Alcove (Tokonoma garden) Design Ishihara Kazuyuki

An Alcove (Tokonoma garden) Design Ishihara Kazuyuki

For a beautiful garden composition, I doubt that you could fault the Artisan Best in Show winner, Kazuyuki’s Tokonmoma garden. Lime greens and rich reds sit carefully balanced either side of a small Japanese house, with vertical and horizontal lines from plants, levels and timber building intersecting. Although the garden is unmistakably Japanese, it doesn’t have the standard cliched ‘I’m a Japanese garden’ inclusions – no bonsai or cloud pruning, no lanterns, no deer scarers. Just exquisite attention to detail.

Click on any photo to see a larger image slideshow. You can also click the photos in the slideshow (top right corner) to see a full-size version.

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Judi New
Judi New
10 years ago

Once again, Catherine, I find myself in total agreement with you!! This time, I share your view of the current meadow-style planting, and your notion that they are one week away from a messy disaster really struck a chord with me. However, I didn’t find the Aussie garden too messy – is that because we are more used to the bush-like planting used. Incidentally, I too enjoyed the Japanese garden.