Designer John Warland has been a constant and stimulating presence at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in recent years. His gardens for children’s charity World Vision have been amongst my favourites, blurring the boundaries between landscape design and art, whilst at the same time conjuring up beautiful, playful, often dazzlingly bright spaces. There has not been a John Warland garden I have not enjoyed, and this year was no exception. Backed by a different sponsor, Paneltech, the talented designer was able to explore new territory at this year’s show with a garden entitled Kinetica.
Inspired by particle theory, the square, symmetrical layout of Kinetica represents the molecular structure of a solid object. Nine, perforated, red planters, each sheltering a specimen of Betula jacquemontii, are weighted underground using pendulums to maintain them, and the trees, in constant motion. The perpetual swaying is intended to displace pollen into one of sixteen canary-yellow basins filled with dark, reflective water. Here Brownian Motion takes hold, moving the tiny particles randomly across the calm surface.
The message? That in an increasingly unstable world, with movement and change all around, only one’s individual perspective can determine the concept of stability. The planting, which might have been nothing more than cheerful window dressing, supported the scientific concept with the inclusion of Clarkia pulchella, the plant which assisted Robert Brown in his discovery of Brownian motion. Using a microscope, the botanist studied the movement of the flowers’ oblong pollen particles in water, observing their apparently random and erratic progress. This movement, it was eventually concluded, was caused by constant bombardment from particles in the surrounding medium.
Other plants used include Echinops ritro (globe thistle), Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant’s tail grass), alliums, Achillea ptarmica, Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) and yellow hemerocallis (daylily).
In a world where we are all bombarded and moved, not always willingly, by bad news, fake news and omnipresent social media, this is a garden we should all be able to relate to. I gazed upon it and felt calm and settled, but at the same time enlivened and amused. Others may feel puzzled, unsettled or even repelled by its quirkiness. And that is exactly the point the designer wished to make, that stability is in the mind of the beholder. TFG.
Designer: John Warland
Sponsor: Paneltech Industries Ltd.
Medal: Silver Gilt