Behold the Monstrous Face of Garden Design 2012

Gardens 2012
Gardens 2012

I was going to write a ‘Ben’s gardening trends to watch out for 2011’ post. However – ‘there will be a trend towards stuff growing in march, maybe earlier, sprinklers will be big in July and everything will fall over in December’ is even more limp and pathetic than the regular media’s forecasts. So instead I have decided to skip a year and start building momentum for my 2012 horticultural campaign.

2012 is the year of the London Olympics, probable apocalypse, Alan Turing and of The Campaign for Sublime Gardens (CSG).

We at the CSG believe that the modern horticultural industry has lost sight of the sublime in its quest for beauty. A beautiful garden should remind the viewer of his capacity for love,  a sublime garden should remind him of his pitiful and insignificant place in the universe and his own inescapable mortality, in a pleasurable way. Beauty is much easier to sell.

The simplest way to inspire a sense of the sublime is through scale –  think of the world’s largest garden gnome, Giambologna’s Appennino in the Medici garden, or of the land art in The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. But just using size is cheating, everything is impressive when its big, and besides much as I love ha-has I don’t really think we need another gardening trend that is only available to the wealthy.

Giambologna's Sublime Gnome

So, I was musing on how to bring a dash of existential pain to the small urban spaces Bensgarden looks after (maintenance slots still available by the way) and I stumbled across the artist who opened this post, Jason de Caires Taylor. He makes life sized casts of people and drops them to the bottom of the ocean to slowly crumble or become buried under tons of coral. Ozymandias meets Luca Brasi – no better nod to man’s transience and mortality.

Man on Fire
The Garden of Hope


To adapt this look for gardens lacking in coral forming organisms is surprisingly easy. Buy a statue, drill a load of holes in it, shove some soil in and you have a humanoid tufa wall for growing alpines. All good, but still a little bit novelty ornamentation; remember the sublime is the terrifying rendered every-day. To really nail the look I suggest  you contact your local bargain ‘antiques barn’ and try to strike a deal for a truck-load of those chipped concrete statues they mass produced in the 70’s.  Dump your figurines in a pile somewhere in the garden, preferably in half shade. Arrange to form a human stumpery, limbs and faces should protrude in places. Spoon top-soil liberally into nooks, crannies and cavities and plant up – the look you should be aiming for is a Jake and Dinos Chapman diorama crossed with a hanging basket.

There we go, my first post in 18months of blogging that contains actual ‘hints and tips for gardeners’ many more to follow as we build towards the 2012 apocalypse.


Winter Cheer

January is a tough time for gardeners. Too much mud, no razzle-dazzle and only bloody snowdrops on the way. So, to buck you all up, here are some of my favourite plants for winter cheer (as seen by Victorian botanist Mr Edward Lear).

Manypeeplia upsidownia
Piggiawiggia pyramidalis
Nastiscreechia Krorluppia