The Garden Guide

Garden designs at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2006

2006 should be remembered as the year in which Modernism first dominated garden design on the Main Avenue of the Chelsea Flower Show. It has been a long time coming. And its ironic that it should happen in the first show sponsored by SAGA - an organisation which provides services for the over-50s (travel, insurance etc). As a design style, the heyday of Modernism was 50 years ago. This could also be the median birthday for visitors to the Chelsea Show: the high style of their parents' youth has become the style of their childrens' show gardens. It is an exemplification of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe's belief that garden and landscape design lag 50 years behind the mainstream fine arts. If Jellicoe's Law enjoys as good a run as Moore's Law, we will see a progression through Postmodernism and post-Postmodernism, which can be glimpsed, to Video Art and Installation Art. There is of course, and quite rightly, a leavening of Nostalgia in the Chelsea 2006 gardens.

Sarah Eberle's Bradstone garden is admirable for its approach to sustainability, thus pointing the way to a post-Postmodern future. It also reminds us of curvilinear modernism - always the junior partner to rectilinear modernism. Jennifer Hirsch's On The Roof Garden is also a pointer to more sustainable, and better, future.

See also: reviews of 2004 Chelsea Show Gardens and 2005 Chelsea Flower Show Gardens and note on 2007 Show and note on the Visiting the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Bradstone Garden, by Sarah Eberle, is a notable design success - and thankfully different from the normal products from the well known garden ornament company which sponsored the garden. The design won a Gold Medal. The style could be classified as curvilinear modern, perhaps drawing from the style of the Parc Guell. An excellent feature of the garden is its approach to sustainable water management. Note the path which is above water in the left picture and below water in the right picture.


The Savills Garden, designed by Marcus Barnett and Philip Nixon, is a modernist garden, apparently inspired by the Barcelona Pavilion.

The Cancer Research UK garden was designed by Andy Sturgeon. The style is abstract modern, though the pavilion and the bench have curving shapes - which harmonise well. The design won a Gold Medal.


The Daily Telegraph Garden, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith (center left) has Modernist geometry combined with a very successful Postmodern approach to materials. In my view it is his best Chelsea garden - it won a Gold Medal and a Best in Show award.


The 4head Garden of Dreams by Marney Hall and Heather Yarrow is a notable visual success, though not the first project of its kind (Sue & Peter Hill also designed the head at Heligan). The garden won a Silver Gild Award.


On The Roof, designed by Jennifer Hirsch, is a terrific example of sustainable roof design. It conserves water and it generates energy. Brilliant. This is how sustainable cities will be made. The garden won a Silver Flora Award.


The Chelsea show is always notable for its details: a fruity hat, a sand wall by Alistair Bayford (who won a Bronze Flora Award) and two water features