As a garden designer Chaumont has to be my favourite garden show, combining a great venue with cutting-edge garden design in an annual festival which we have visited many times. The gardens are in place all year, allowing them to evolve and develop through the season. It is also a favourite of Garden Design Academy students who visit with us each year.
Continuing our tour, “Madam Irma – all kinds of predictions” featured the gypsy caravan of a fortune teller through which you pass into the white garden of a crystal ball future. Creating a garden of the future, we are told, means letting you be captivated by time, dreaming, projecting yourself, guessing, measuring the fragility of the future and the multitude of possibilities. It means betting on the future.
“Garden in the Street” considered a future where biodiversity became the essential reason for the existence of the street, to the point where the way it is laid out was completely reviewed and the face of the towns and cities of tomorrow was changed. Structures collected water and photovoltaic energy, provided lighting and support for plants. Run-off water feeds flowers and specialist paving encourages grass and other plants.
“Fertile bulbs” also contains structural elements but of a much softer design, composters in the form of giant bulbs, awakening the promise of future germinations and making the hidden work of the subsoil visible (decomposition, fermentation, reorganisation, reuse). They offer an ode to domestic biodiversity, one we can all take care of.
“Lucy in the sky” was a clever idea and cleverly built, a packing case construction illustrating the importance of rooftop gardens in the cities. The ecumene is shared by wild plants which adapt to the conditions, taking nourishment from its water, its air and its waste. Gardeners can assist by orchestrating this symbiosis and appreciate the diversity of its beneficial effects.
Chinese landscape architect Wang Xiangrong creates in his garden a “misty landscape”, which is a reference to the archetypal Chinese garden, developing a feeling of “misty poetry” and serenity. Red-coloured pavilions, earth and water, blue sky and white clouds form constants, made use of by this very contemporary garden, called “Between sky and earth”
Chaumont International Festival of Gardening is open until 16th October and is well worth a day of your time. The huge numbers of plants make you want to rush out and spend, but one of the curious aspects of the show is that the garden shop offers very few plants for sale. It is an aspect of the event which is (deliberately?) neglected and always a slight disappointment to me.
Coming soon: Part three of this review covering another selection of gardens.