Best Garden Design; Practical Inspirations from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Chris Young, Firefly Books
A fascinating aspect about cultural norms is that when they are brought to North America, by immigrants, they tend to reseed themselves and propagate unchanged. This phenomenon has been reported by countless second generation Americans who visit the old country of their grandparents only to discover that it has evolved into a new country, unrecognizable to those who packed up and left from there years before. The remaining inhabitants eventually modernized their way of life, while the émigrés, who settled in America, remained stuck in an old fashioned mind set.
Similarly today, North Americans continue to embrace the romantic English Garden while many British designers have moved forward. Encouraged by expositions and competitions, they work at the forefront of modernity and are light years ahead of mainstream tastes in America. One of the best examples of this advanced style of garden design may be seen in the submissions to the Royal Horticultural Society, Chelsea Flower Show, where new horticultural and design ideas are presented. Every year, at the end of May, on 11 acres of the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London, The Royal Horticultural Society hosts a forward looking flower show that leaves most visitors breathless.
Year after year, mind boggling, innovative ideas are presented. The audacious use of ultra modern design elements, including the use of aluminum, oxidized steel, glass, or garden rubbish, is outrageously courageous.
The small show gardens at Chelsea are about equal in size to small urban gardens, measuring 16 x 22 feet, while larger show gardens may reach 30 x 70 feet. Regardless of their dimensions, they are, in fact, temporary stage sets created intentionally to wow the visitor, to showcase the talent of the designers, and to market innovative garden materials.
The Chelsea show includes all nine styles of gardening. They can be Romantic, Minimalist, Mediterranean, Arabic, Classical, Narrative, Wildlife, Formal, or Magical/Mad. In this book, Mr. Young has compiled an overview of the more interesting installations from the years 2005 to 2009. Instead of dealing with them chronologically, or by style, he has cleverly grouped them by subject. That way, garden designers looking for inspiration or affirmation about specific design elements, all of which are practical, can use this publication for reference.
The design topics surveyed and summarized in dedicated chapters are Entrances/ Pathways/ Boundaries, Planting, Outdoor Living, Water, Materials, Sustainability, Productive Gardens, Lighting, and Garden Art.
The book is richly illustrated with an unusually large number of color photos containing so much detail and beautiful garden shots that, in another era, it might have been produced as a coffee table book.
There are two recurring themes that run through this publication, although they are never mentioned, specifically. They are submitted through the images. One is that small gardens can be spectacularly designed. All it takes is a talented, original thinker who recognizes that traditional conventions are dispensable. The second theme, blatant but silent, is the idea that a lawn is not a requirement. In most of the gardens portrayed, grass is used as trim. Any reader who cannot imagine that a back yard garden can be serviceable and beautiful without a lawn ought to study this book. It is a revelation!
In youth, when we discovered life and the world for the very first time, everything we experienced was exciting and vibrant. Older people, on the contrary, looked upon the younger generation and smiled condescendingly because they had already seen it all before. Well, I am now the older generation and with the help of this book, it has been an exciting experience to discover avant-garde, cutting edge landscaping. I have just seen garden design again for the very first time.