Concept Garden Tastic at Chaumont International Garden Festival

Today Hugo and I went to Chaumont International Garden Show in France, near Tours. The garden show is entirely dedicated to concept gardens plus there are interesting art installations in the main Park.  What an incredible setting for a Garden Show.  It’s on permanently from April through to October which means that the designers have the added challenge of ensuring the show gardens look good throughout 3 seasons.

There are 24 gardens to see and it takes a good 3 or 4 hours to wander around.  Whilst they are all executed well, some are better than others as you would expect at a show (and of course its all down to personal opinion).

For me, the big take out from the day was how the different gardens make you ‘feel’ governs whether they are successful or not. Some gardens didn’t effect me at all, in fact I just felt disappointed and unsure what they were trying to convey.

Some gardens made you feel sad, empty, almost uncomfortable in their appearance, but at least that was part of the intention (I hope!).   The big theme for the show this year is Biodiversity and the Future of Gardens.   So many gardens had stark warning messages; ‘we must amend our ways now or this may be our future’.  The most effective gardens, were those that excited me in their clever execution, they looked beautiful even if, for some, they had negative messages to convey.  Not all were doom and gloom!  Here were my top 5:

  • Garden 2 – Sculptillonnage, designed by Corinne Julhiet-Detroyat and Claude Pasquer
  • Garden 11 – Handle with care, designed by Jeroen Jacobs and Maarten Jacobs
  • Garden 13 – The nature of things, designed by Soline Portmann, Aurélie Zita and Mioko Tanaka
  • Garden 15 – Between sky and earth, designed by Wang Xiangrong
  • Garden 20 – The Take Away Garden, designed by Steve Papps, Jo Chapman and Jackie Bennett

For me concept gardens need to create an emotional reaction, be it a positive or negative one, that captures the overall message so that you don’t need to read any sign outside the garden – just feel your way to the designer’s intention.  And in a way, just like art, if you don’t get the designer’s intention it doesn’t matter as long as you personally take something out of it.   All the elements need to work together to convey the message and to do this the space needs to me entertain in some way, be it through discovery, mystery,  quality of execution or just simply an overall impression.  

As the build for my concept garden looms closer, I find myself asking, can you know for sure before you build, that the ‘feel’ is going to be right? – just from an idea in your head, a drawing on paper, intricate planning and research.  And is there just a measure of lady luck on the day also involved?  

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