Looking at versus being in

"I dream of a green garden, where the sun feathers my face like your once eager kiss."

Sue Hubbard, 'Eurydice'

When we dream about gardens, it's rarely about just looking at a garden, it's the sensations of actually being in that space: the sensation of dappled sunlight on skin; the feel of soft grass underfoot; the scent of roses mingling with the damp earth.

My own garden design methodology prioritises being-in - designing around all five senses to create a garden that feels wonderful to be outside in, as well as looking great from inside the house. 

In contrast, the revival of garden design in 13th century Europe (following a hiatus after the decline of the Roman Empire), prioritised looking-at.  The garden was designed primarily to be viewed from the house - arranged symmetrically along a longitudinal axis, with planting near the house kept low to allow uninhibited views.  Further away, paths were edged with trees, predominantly clipped/pruned in some way. Aside from occasional walks around the estate, these gardens were to be appreciated from a distance.

In show gardens the need to protect a garden from heavy foot traffic tends to result in these being roped-off to the public leaving viewers to imagine what it would like to be inside among the plants and trees.  For my garden at the Hampton Court Flower Show this year is was really important to me to design something that viewers need to enter inside to appreciate.  As such, my garden is designed inside-out.  From outside, viewers will be treated to the sight of rusted metal walls, which screen the interior from view.  One-by-one, or in small groups, visitors will go inside to experience the garden first-hand.  The repetition of the space through mirrored interior walls stretches the meadow inside to infinity.  Without the viewer being inside the garden to experience this, there is no garden.

Tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show are available at https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-hampton-court-palace-flower-show

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