Chelsea best: “Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden” designed by Jihae Hwang

May 22, 2012

in Editorial

Forbidden Garden 4 copyright Anne Wareham

I’d like to say just how different the “Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden” is. It gained Gold for its sheer quality and the excellence of the design, but its remarkable feature was the fact that it  has powerful and accessible emotional content.

 This was no facile ‘theme’ but a discussion of reconciliation and healing which clearly came from the heart and made the rest of the show look pretty and shallow. I have been suggesting for years that we think about what gardens can communicate – to endless blank faces and total incomprehension.
But here, here at last, and in such a weighty setting, is an example of the thing we are so in need of: the political garden. Not heavy handed, nor crude in any way, but facing bravely up to Diarmuid Gavin’s bigger but insignificant tower and speaking to the heart. This is what we need more of, and congratulations to Jihae Hwang for a sure touch and succeeding against great odds.
Anne Wareham, editor
Forbidden Garden 1 copyright Anne Wareham
Forbidden Garden 2 copyright Anne Wareham

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designer wellies July 2, 2012 at 3:15 am

This is a very good tip particularly to those new to the
blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info? Thanks for sharing this one.

A must read post!

Adam June 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm

”This was no facile ‘theme’ but a discussion of reconciliation and healing which clearly came from the heart and made the rest of the show look pretty and shallow”
Anne, whilst I appreciate your recognition of the important message the DMZ garden compelled us to consider, I am a smidge concerned that the beauty of all the flowers etcof the main show are contrasted as ‘shallow’. Surely the whole point of the show is to share the delights of flowers or designed garden space, before being a show of conscience. I know what you mean by the ‘facile’ themes but it isnt fair to draw a contrast to the integrity of the DMZ garden.

annewareham June 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Well, that’s interesting. I am a sucker for beauty myself but Chelsea didn’t offer that for me this year. Does it ever ? and if not, why not? (question to myself) It seemed full of pretty flowers. Nice enough, if that’s what you’re after at Chelsea?

And the ‘themes’ ? – well, see Helen Gazeley’s piece – http://thinkingardens.co.uk/articles/hampton-court-health-warnings-by-helen-gazeley/

John June 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Adam, if you look at the coverage of Chelsea on TV, in magazines and in the great blogosphere, you will notice that the floral marquees get less attention than the show gardens and the attention which they get is generally concentrating on this or that plant, rather than the displays as a whole. (Typical comments at RHS Cardiff were “that’s a nice display”, “there’s pretty” or “you’re in my way” – I had stopped to avoid being run over by an electric wheelchair.) It is the show gardens that attract attention.

So the show gardens! There are lots of ideas to take back to one’s own garden. This year a pile of scaffolding; great as I have nowhere for a crane to lift that pod up. Or the planting. Yes, that’s a lovely combination and I’d like to do that. So consign yourself to the task of delaying flowering of those plants and bringing on the others so they flower together. Or look at most of the show gardens and say “that’s nice”. The show gardens are merely an end in themselves – they are theatre, financially beyond the reach of all but the seriously rich. And as theatre they are pretty, they are transient, they are, I have to say, generally shallow.

The DMZ garden was never going to win the people’s choice award from BBC but it took show gardens to a new height or is it better to say a new depth? It’s just a shame that some though it was Diarmuid’s rubbish dump.

Sara Venn May 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

The DMZ Garden is very close to my heart as I was part of the team who looked after the plants that were bouyght in from Korea. The designer is an artist, a wonderful woman who refuses to hear the word no and has a true purpose in life to produce very beautiful gardens whilst making political comment. I knew that it was going to be something very special as soon as the plants and supports for the climbers arrived on the nursery.
What I did not expect was for it to be spine chilling, emotionally charged and very beautiful all at the same time. Finally a garden that was so much more than pretty and perfect and that actually brought shivers to the spine. The planting was incredible, the attention to detail second to none. I sincerely hope this garden gives others with similar stories to tell the confidence to produce show gardens in this arena.

Alan Guy MBE May 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

I am the Korean Liaison Officer for the British Korean Veterans Association and have been constantly frustrated by the lack of public knowledge about the Korean War 1950 – 1953. The official casualty figures for the British Forces in Korea are 1078 killed which is more than all the other conflicts in The Falklands ,Iraq ,Afghanistan etc combined so we had every right to feel ‘Forgotten’.
Jihae Hwang and her dedicated team have brought our War to the attention of the general public for which we give her our eternal gratitude. Well done Jihae – you have done us proud !!

Cyril Luger May 26, 2012 at 7:29 am

I was asked to be present on the Monday press day with a few other Korean Veterans to support Jihae in her portrayal of the demilitrarised zone betwen North and South Korea. It brought back many memories of that awful war and the 1026 British lives that were lost and majority of them buried in that foreign soil.
It is a pity that the episode in our history is not well known amongst students and the general public, and the quote that is the ‘Forgotten War’ is justly earned.

Rob May 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I love this garden. The planting is so natural it’s hard to believe that it’s a temporary show piece and not something that’s been plucked straight from the Korean wilds.

John May 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm

As a studious avoider of Chelsea I have had to rely on photographs and descriptions of others. Both sight and word have moved me. I have read nothing that does not evince the power of this garden and every photograph I have seen adds to that power.

So many commentators have given this garden their “best” vote that, with no disrespect to Cleve, I wonder (and clearly am not alone in this) whether the location of this garden next to the towering monstrosity of scaffolding was detrimental.

If nothing else, in my mind at least, there is now a need for someone, somewhere, to review the rules and to place a limit on the extent to which showmanship at Chelsea can outweigh the gardening element. A garden is to be experienced from within, felt, smelt, not viewed from behind some health and safety barrier.

Mary May 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I was keen to see this garden after having been so delighted by Jihae Hwang’s small garden at last year’s show. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the impact it would have.
sandwiched between that ludicrous tower and a kitsch display of painted metal flowers, it was an oasis. I found it incredibly moving emotionally and absolutely breathtaking as a garden.Tthe attention to detail was mesmerising. Without any doubt the most wonderful garden i have ever seen at Chelsea.
As a comparatively minor point, the very fact that it wasn’t surrounded by barriers and one could approach it from every side – and enter into it – made such an impression.
Words really do fail me.

Lesley Pearse May 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

I totally agree with your views on the Korean Garden Anne, it gave me a little pang in the heart. Having heard about it from my friends installing my greenhouse on the Tower,I was intrigued. I just wish I’d been able to see it in the flesh, not just on TV. It was a worthy winner, and a step forward in making people think about something other than pretty/pretty. A brilliant garden design.

Melissa Jolly May 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I had a long chat to my son’s teacher, Debbie, yesterday, as she was lucky enough to help Jihae Hwang on her garden for a couple of days during the build. Debbie’s account of the thrill of Chelsea together with the deep emotional impact of Jihae’s garden was enough to make both our eyes well with tears. She said Jihae’s attention to detail and belief in what she was creating was so inspiring she was ready to ditch her interactive white board for a trowel at once.

I am sad to say that I will not be seeing it in the flesh, but i am so enjoying reading all the emotive accounts that are being written. Landcapes are so powerful – hence so many show gardens are created around designer’s fond memories – but they can be so much more. I totally agree that this world renowned show provides a great medium to convey messages of all sorts – at the same time as allowing people to be able to marvel at good workmanship and great plants.

Emmon May 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Just saw a photo of the watch tower. In terms of emotional impact, it reminds me just a a bit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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