Thursday, 8 January 2009

more showtime...

After giving away a (very small) teaser back in October of what else we are due to be doing this year, I am pleased to say that I can now do a proper announcement...

We are to be staging a small show garden at the Malvern Spring Show, which is also to be part of the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship scheme. This means we have to build the garden, then I have to subject myself, the judges,and the rest of the world to a rant about why I should be taken under Mr Beardshaw's wing for the following year. I'm good at ranting, but not so good at the 'big yourself up' gig. Should be interesting...

All gardens entering for the scheme had to based on the theme 'dance', which I was not too enthralled with, but hey, it made my brain work to get it into something I like. Therefore a very abstract view of the theme has been taken for the garden.

So, here is the grand unveiling of our garden, called 'dancing with the trees'...

"‘dancing with the trees’ is a multi faceted garden which interprets the art of dance as a series of movements with and to the music of the trees – both of the inhabitant’s body and of the planting within. The garden also celebrates the connection between man and the earth – both physical by enforced touch and restriction, and work, as the garden is set out as a traditional ‘model’ coppice with flowering crab apple standards.

A path of recycled glass chips winds into the garden, which has the visual appearance of a small section of an infant sweet chestnut coppice. Standards of flowering crab apple rise above the sweet chestnut feathered maidens, with opulent woodland planting of greens, whites and reds below. A boundary of spaced chestnut poles surrounds three sides of the garden, with infills of living willow rods, which move with the wind and create ‘white noise’ against the solid chestnut. The scene is serene, shaded, yet alive with movement and the music of foliage.

But the path is not easy. It narrows, is restricted by planting, willow balls and ‘fallen’ chestnut from the boundary fence. The visitor is forced to move as the garden dictates – to step over items, around items, to support themselves with the trees. The restrictions of the garden enforces an ever changing ‘dance’ onto the visitors who move within it. Spacial awareness is increased, perspective altered and touch enforced on the dancers.

The path winds full circle from the front of the garden and back again, creating a visual and spiritual performance within the theatre of the trees for those watching from the front edge. But even the spectators are enforced upon by the garden.

Five ‘sentinel’ chestnut poles are placed as the central focal point of the garden, each one engraved vertically with a line and title from an excerpt of the poem ‘Among School Children’ by William Butler Yeats:

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Spectators are forced to move their heads sideways to read the poem, thus creating a subtle, massed ‘dance’, mirroring the moving, floating planting of Tiarella, Astilbe and Aquilegia within. The planting, spectators and inhabitants move with the music of the willow and the trees, blurring the ideas of the imposed dance and the dancers, both within and outside of the garden.

‘dancing with the trees’ is designed to be a challenging garden to inhabit, yet restful to view. The awareness of the body and the dance of the garden are heightened with occupancy (both for inhabitants and spectators), yet the ‘music’ of the willow and the dance of the trees themselves always remains, as per the poem. Are the inhabitants the dancers, or the trees? It is a garden of youthful discovery, as the dancers interact directly with the planting, akin to our youth of climbing trees and dancing through woods. ‘dancing with the trees’ is a natural performance theatre, where man and nature interact"

So - there you go. Rather conceptual is suppose, but I can be deep and meaningful sometimes. I'm quite excited about the garden, even though my mind is currently split into a million bits with other stuff. Would love to know what you all think... (except no comments please about my apparent love for neon colours in my drawings - this is purely the web, and not me - my sketches are very tasteful thank you)

Oh - one more thing - we are currently seeking a main sponsor for the garden, so if there is anyone interested out there...


  1. How exciting! I'm getting the butterflies already, can't wait x

  2. It's really great to get an insight into the design process. Thanks Claire - may you dance off with the prize!

  3. Claire, this looks like a lovely plan - I love woods and to achieve the look and feel in a small area is great. I think its the idea of the logs over the path which appeals to me. I always dance in a wood or copse, so I think the two go together really well.

    Good luck Sylvia (England)

  4. Thank you all for your wonderful comments - will keep you posted on the developments...