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Designing a conceptual garden

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Anoushka Feiler Anoushka Feiler | 10:31 UK time, Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I've asked myself a thousand times whether it's wise to do a concept garden vs. a more conventional show garden. It's been such an investment both on my part and that of my friends and family. Is it a wise investment? Surely it's more sensible to create a garden that someone might actually want to hire you to create in their own back garden? After all I need to earn money at the end of the day.

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Excuse me while I kiss the sky conceptual garden

So why did I choose to do a concept garden? Well for me conceptual gardens give designers the chance to create something that is less restricted by practical considerations and a 'client' and only limited by the extent of your imagination. It gives designers the opportunity to push the boundaries and make statements that entertain and / or make you think or see things in new ways. Garden design has perhaps lagged behind other arts when it comes to finding new pathways in design. Conceptual gardens help to push garden design in this direction.

Often people have said to me, 'Concept Gardens, that's the student category isn't it?' but I think and rather hope there may be a sea change occurring in peoples' perception of the category. Many of my fellow Concept Garden designers at this year's show are not students (and anyway - what's wrong if they are?). The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show seems to be developing a rather healthy reputation for its Conceptual Garden Category. The validity of the category has been ratified this year with more and more of the gardens achieving healthy sponsorship levels. And there certainly seems to be quite a lot of media interest in them.

So what of the experience of creating a concept garden? It's been incredibly fun from the outset. Designing concept gardens is a dream really (well in my books) because you can go bonkers. Then all the planning for months in advance - sounds easy but its pretty relentless with never ending 'to do' lists.

Anoushka's upside-down planting

Anoushka's upside-down planting

And then finally creating the garden itself over the last two weeks has been such a roller coaster experience. 14 hour days (and sometimes nights), sore feet, panic moments when something you've planned for months doesn't work, is counter balanced by the highs when something gets solved or goes to plan. I guess this is the same experience for all show exhibitors, but what makes it different in the concept category is that all the designers are a little bit unhinged.

We each step into our own worlds for hours on end as we create the bizarre, the odd and sometime downright weird little garden universes then we go and visit our neighbours to be wowed by their equally bonkers creations. Concept gardens are highly entertaining both in their build and finished state.

Currently I feel like I've been living on adrenalin and as I write this blog my eyes are being held open with matchsticks. I've stepped out of the real world into another bubble that is 'the garden show'. It's ALL ABOUT THE SHOW, I haven't seen the news, Wimbledon or given nearly enough attention to our cats (who have now abandoned sleeping on my pillow in protest of the super early morning starts). So on that note, I better go and catch up on some sleep, perhaps I may even lure our cats back!

Anoushka Feiler's Excuse me while I kiss the sky was awarded a Silver-Gilt Flora at this year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.


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