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Tuesday March 02 , 2021

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Hampton Court Palace RHS Show 2013

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hamptoncourt2013-1What a day this turned out to be, I’d been looking forward to going since booking the tickets back in February, it was the hottest day of the year so far!  People who weren’t able to cope with the searing temperatures were being carried out on stretchers!  We had gone prepared...shorts, hats, sun tan lotion and plenty of water – but it just wasn’t enough.  I did, as expected, thoroughly enjoy myself but the heat did zap energy and it took away some of the sparkle, the specialness and sheer indulgence of the day.

The show gardens were amazing and never fail to impress, as a designer though I do always look at them with a critical eye and however much I like them I always feel that they are a snapshot in time which of course is the point.  It is the ‘snapshot’ that concerns me though - the planting whilst so beautiful, for the most part, can often be unrealistic or not transferable back in to the average garden.  One reason is the plant spacings so many plants so closely planted that would in a real garden be a haven for mildews, moulds and no doubt a few pests too.  Also some flowering plants will have been forced or delayed so they flower at show time when, in reality they might flower a few months apart, which in itself is an art I agree but perhaps not realistic for the average gardener.  I also question some of the hard landscaping materials used - while beautiful in a show garden - I often wonder how practical they would be and whether they would have lasted a year after the garden was built in a normal home environment.  I could probably write a whole article on this point but I would like to see show gardens that are as inspirational but completely practical too so that the average person can replicate some of those ideas in their own space more successfully.


I saw lots of structures being used very well in the show gardens, some I hadn’t seen before but I noticed that CorTen steel was used in a lot of gardens this year.  CorTen steel is a very popular material these days; it doesn’t need to be painted or treated, it weathers and has an attractive rust quality, CorTen is the trademarked name.  A very famous structure in the UK made from CorTen is The Angel of the North in Gateshead.


Here we can see CorTen being used as garden art, the foreground has attractive circles joined together and in the background it is used as a focal point drawing the eye along the water feature.
hamptoncourt2013-3 In this image CorTen has been used decoratively as cross beams, not really for additional strength as the pillars are well constructed and sturdy.   You would feel as though you were inside a structure with the cross beams curving around the inner courtyard or seating area. The designer has cleverly used a few similar coloured bricks in the construction of the wall which ties the colours together really well.  


Even the Ecover show garden also used CorTen steel in the housing of branded blue ribbons in their structure.  The underlying principle of this garden was to show that water is life.


This garden was ‘Discover the best in later life’ and explored the stereotypes of age and isolation older people feel. 

They tried to challenge those stereotypes using audio of older people around the garden giving you a snapshot of their life experiences and challenges.  It was indeed a thought provoking garden and I think it did challenge people.   The pathways led to an inner garden revealing this structure which was 5m in height, the aim was to demonstrate the unique way the brain processes memory and how it uses those memories in everyday life.  The planting represents lush 1920s style and it shows clearly that foliage and flowers work really well with the steel whether it is used as a backdrop or as part of the border itself.


Here the steel is used conceptually to replicate a forest fire and the planting as a desolation phase.  The steel works well here, you do get the impression that they are burning trees, forgetting for a second the point of the garden, the planting itself looks great against the steel. You can see in the background of this picture CorTen is also being used structurally as individual upright posts which aim to create a screen or room and this effect works very well here.

These few examples show how steel can be used as both a structural element, sculpture and general garden art.  I think it is a great material to use in both traditional and contemporary settings due to its natural weathering quality.

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Nicki Jackson is Blue Daisy's garden designer & owner. A former HR consultant Nicki still finds the time to run Blue Daisy, design gardens and planting plans, write a blog, keep our gardening clients happy and offer IIP advice and outplacement support through Blue Daisy Consultancy.

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