Prospects for a conceptual garden show look bleak

Conceptual garden sections at Tatton Park and Hampton Court have left prospects for a stand-alone independent visionary show looking bleak.

Avant-garde show Future Gardens has no future after its demise was confirmed, prompting designers to query the viability of avant-garde showcases.

"Future Gardens isn't in existence any more," said a source at Butterfly World in Hertfordshire, where the event launched last year. It hit problems when visitor numbers failed to match the organisers' ambitious forecasts.

The same gardens were shown this year and remain in place, bar a design by former Society of Garden Designers (SGD) chairman Peter Thomas that had been taken down, said the designer. This leaves the RHS as the only standard bearer for avant-garde design.

Thomas said: "After Future Gardens last year, it was decided that instead of taking them apart and redoing another competition next year, the gardens would stay."

He said he was told a few months ago that his wild flower garden, with 370 sculptural butterfly elements, would be removed. "As far as I know, there is no design competition dedicated to conceptual gardens any more. The closest equivalent is Chaumont in France, which is managed by students and volunteers," he added.

"Conceptual festivals are successful for what they are. But you need transport, a lot of publicity and lots to do to keep people entertained for a day. I think the future for conceptual gardens may be like architecture, where designers enter competitions with budgets."

SGD representative Amanda Patton said: "The British are so strong on horticulture - it is a missed opportunity not to have our own show." She added that the RHS conceptual show elements went "from strength to strength" but there also needed to be a show that was independent of the society.


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