It will be Barker's debut at an RHS flower show.
The design for the Red Thread Garden came to him whilst drawing with his three-year-old daughter. He made a quick crayon sketch of the garden, inspired by the ancient Chinese myth called "the Red Thread of Fate". The myth tells that when we are born the gods tie one of our ankles with a red thread, which also gets attached to all the people whose lives we are destined to touch. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
To represent the myth in a garden setting Barker has chosen locally sourced oak to create pillars that range from 1.7m to 2.6m in height and a red polymer rope with a matte finish, to give the impression of thick cotton. Lots of texture will be key in the garden, as the rope is a feature in itself. The red rope is tied around the posts in a complex pattern to represent the complex journey destiny can take to connect two people. The planting acts as a textural backdrop to the red rope. The sculptural oak blocks are repeated throughout the garden as repetition of the varying heights of the oak posts as well as to ground the design.
The colour scheme will complement the red rope and as such there will be hints of red in the planting as well as purple and white. Two Asian wedding cake trees (Cornus controversa) have been chosen for their beautiful purple tinted stems and will be placed in opposite corners of the garden.
In contrast to the sculptural oak, Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’, featured for their round-dome form and leathery, glossy obovate leaves, will be dotted throughout. To add texture and depth, Hydrangea Quercifolia will be planted next to the two medium character oak posts and ferns such as Dryopteris filix-mas will add contrast in form. Adding delicate colour and working in harmony with the red rope are Astrantia Major Subsp. involucrata ‘Shaggy’ and Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’.
The garden owner could be a gallerist and the garden could be viewed as an art installation as it offers an element of visitor interaction. Visitors will be provided with a red thread and invited to tie it around the two character oak posts, or alternatively take it home with them. The visitor interaction will leave a mark on the visitor and on the garden concept. Barker hopes to convey a positive message to those that visit his garden and hopes it will give them "a chance to pause and reflect upon their own life journeys in this complex, dramatic and sympathetic garden".