A Tribute to Linnaeus designed by Ulf Nordfiell reviewed by Anne Wareham

August 6, 2007

in Events, Shows

A Tribute to Linnaeus - Image 1

Chelsea Flower Show 2007

Gardens at Chelsea are different from any gardens in the outside world for several reasons which are worth noting in relation to any criticism or comment on them.

Their planting is focused entirely on what can be presented in Chelsea week – plants are forced or held back by the suppliers. The gardens are ridiculously over planted and planted straight out of pots so that the result is closer to flower arranging than a representation of a growing garden. You can only visit these gardens from the outside  – that is, not visit them at all. And you inevitably experience the gardens in the context of all the other gardens that are presented to you at Chelsea. It leaves me bewildered and overwhelmed – the major gardens are all in a row, cheek by cheek, so that you leave one and instantly you’re confronted by the next, and the next and..

All this makes them closer, perhaps, to paintings in a gallery and therefore to the popular concept of an ‘art form’ than a garden ordinarily achieves in the popular imagination. Add the inevitable ‘theme’ (wherever did that come from?) and the picture, one might say, is complete.

It is within that context that I selected the ‘Tribute to Linnaeus Garden’ to write about for thinkinGardens. The gardens elsewhere, and especially the major gardens down the main avenue, were full of restless colour or incident and this garden came as refreshment. White and green dominated, but with touches of other colour in the purple/blue range. A touch of orange in the large, stylish wooden structure that ran overhead of the path which made the spine of the garden added the necessary edge.

Then there was pleasing pattern throughout the garden, using the basic restraint of rectangles, circles and straight lines. Three round white stone blocks, each with a different feature – a low fountain or small circular planting – to give that pleasure of difference within repetition echoed the rounds of three box balls. One square pool was full of dark water, the second of water running over pebbles – and in that, instantly reminding me of country streams. The formality of the garden gave way at the ends to a softening, wilder look reminiscent of the countryside, and this, as with the perforated timber blocks used in the large structure and the walls, referenced the Swedish woodland landscape and indigenous use of materials.

The choice of plants acknowledged Linnaeus and Sweden, and in this added to the painterly quality of the garden: not just attractive to look at but conjuring images and history. It was clearly easier to remind us of the Swedish countryside though than the remind us of Linnaeus. I could have done without the screens depicting pineapples and a portrait of, presumably, Linnaeus. Bit heavy-handed. The light echoes of Swedish countryside were one thing, but the effort to bring the Swedish botanist into the picture was the usual over literal, over ‘spelt out’ stuff which tends to come with ‘theming’ and is why we would be better off without it.

A Tribute to Linnaeus - Image 3Anne Wareham

Veddw House Garden website

Read Stephen Anderton’s review

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