Hi from London! I was reading the Independent newspaper over breakfast this morning and in it the Royal Horticultural Society, which organises the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, has named what they think are the five key trends in garden design: water features, wild flowers, shaped trees, sculptures, and the "garden office."
I have to agree about the water features. Nearly every garden at Chelsea this year features water in some capacity. It's lucky it's not swimming weather though (I am sitting in my hotel writing this by the light of the lightning strikes, English summer anyone?) since no one's done anything as predictable as just put a pool in: these are water features with cultural resonance or biological metaphorical significance.
The Australian Garden presented by the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne has a billabong-type pond shaped like a hunting boomerang in fact the whole garden is designed to reflect the journey of water across Australia), while The British Heart Foundation Mending Broken Hearts Appeal Garden has a pool you can cross with red stepping stones which symbolise blood platelets (the garden also contains red steel arches which represent veins and arteries). And the HESCO Garden, designed by Leeds City Council, even had a working water wheel.
While there were wildflowers everywhere, it seems to me that the real trend at Chelsea wasn't planting wildflowers but planting for wildlife. Bees, bugs, birds, garden designers were trying to attract them all. Not just by planting, in fact, but by building. I saw three gardens that contained bug hotels including a nine storey Insect Hilton in the B&Q Garden (it's the tallest display garden in Chelsea history) which looked considerably nicer than my own hotel. The RBC New Wild Garden had integrated bug habitats into its dry stone walls and the outside of the recycled shipping container that was the garden's central structure (there's that "garden office" trend). No wonder both gardens were positively humming with bees. I guess the news of a cheap London hotel room was bound to get around.
I wasn't so convinced by the Irish Sky Garden, designed by Diarmuid Gavin. On the ground, there are 25 metal pools, reflecting the sky above, and bisected by a serpentine corten steel pathway. And floating above all that is the pink "garden pod", planted both inside and out (the top and bottom are covered with uncut turf, while on the inner skin of the pod a collection of hostas, ferns, grasses and rosemary is growing). The garden's big USP (unique selling point) is that the "garden pod" is on a crane and can be raised and lowered at your whim. While I do see that this would be a good way to avoid unwanted interruptions in your "garden office", I'm not sure if it really pulls off its aim of creating a "hanging Eden". I mean, who'd want a whacking great crane in the garden?
And when it comes to the sculptures, I did rather fall for this sofa, carved from a single piece of quarried stone by Birmingham artist Michael Scheuermann. Unfortunately, at 80,000 pounds it's possibly over my budget - not to mention my luggage allowance.