In a year where British hopes for international competition glory are high, designers Jo Thompson and Richard Miers reveal their peace gardens and medal hopes for the third Gardening World Cup held in Japan later this year.
The pair joins nine of the world’s best designers invited to build peace gardens at Huis Ten Bosch in South East Japan. Four entrants, Jo Thompson, James Basson, Kazuyuki Ishihara and Jihae Hwang, were at Chelsea this year. Australia’s Jim Fogarty won the cup last year with Andy Sturgeon’s claiming it for Britain the year before.
The event is held in a large and extraordinary replica 17th century Dutch theme park. With its proximity to Nagasaki, the brief is deliberately, ‘gardens for world peace’, and was conceived by Japanese garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara.
Returning for a second time Jo says: “My experience last year, where I narrowly missed a gold medal, has helped me to plan and design this year’s garden.”
“’The Butterfly Effect’ garden is my response to the atomic shadows I saw at the Peace Park and museum. The intricate and beautiful shadows of leaves and flowers, burnt onto walls by the blast, made me consider the fact that such delicate patterns could be caused by something so brutally ugly. In contrast, as we left the museum, butterflies almost seemed to dance around us, their wings lit in the sunlight.
“This 10m x 12m sunken garden has a deliberate Italian feel to it; it is the Italian entry in the Cup. Its part-cloistered walls, inspired by a childhood visit to an abandoned Tuscan monastery, and formal beds hint at my heritage too. Arches and niches provide viewpoints both in and out of the garden, as well as creating the sense of an enclosed and peaceful place to be.
“Local stone forms the classical architectural walls and arches framing views of pine trees, reminiscent of Italian stone pines. These arches in some places are open: elsewhere they are filled to provide a canvas for shadows throughout the day. A Japanese stone plinth stands at one end of the garden. Water bubbles up from its base through large rocks and smaller stones to a still, calm deep pool. Back by popular demand is the use of gravel as a floor surface to be walked upon rather than viewed from the outside. I was intrigued by visitors’ response last year to the sound of this being walked on: a sound uncommon in the gardens of Japan.
“Paper sculptures by British artist Martin Dodkins, sit in lit wall niches. Their intricate folds cast shadows and catch the light at different times of the day. Other paper forms sit in a glass case on top of the plinth. I’ve made the contrast between glass, paper and stone quite deliberate. Plants include masses of Eupatorium, Buddleia and Calliandra, with the aim of enticing butterflies into the space”
Jo adds; “It is an amazing event in so many respects. You are given a great local construction team to work with. They will help source last minute plants and materials and build the arches, a feat in themselves as they are uncommon in Japan. And I will learn from colleagues around the world working alongside me.”
Along with Jo, event newcomer Richard Miers is also named as one of the top ten up and coming garden designers by House & Garden magazine. Richard, who has been designing gardens for over 15 years, including show gardens says: “’Serenity’ is a pocket of living green in an urban environment with a very English subtext. There is a symmetry and use of numbers that challenges the way the Japanese think about outdoor
spaces. The unraked gravel is a practical solution to surfacing on a budget. The herbaceous planting, ferns and moss mounds are however my interpretation of Japanese design so there is an east meets west element to this place.”
“There is of course symbolism in the hard landscaping. The table calls us together to sit down and talk, the start of any peace process whether it is in the boardroom or a more informal community. A spherical disc by Emily Young, the country’s finest female stone sculptor, suggests the rising sun and the promise that a new day brings. The rill around the garden runs smoothly and turbulently as does the journey of peace.”
Richard, who worked with Arne Maynard for seven years, is hoping for a gold medal with his 7.4 x 13.5 meter garden. But, as he explains: “I am not under estimating how hard this competition will be. Even the whole process of sourcing trees and plants is difficult; done over the internet with no nursery visits. Invitations like this are incredibly rare. It gives me a chance to work in Japan, and hopefully see a bit of it, plus produce a garden where I am the client.”
Visitors to the Gardening World Cup will see work by the best designers from New Zealand, North America, Europe and the Far East. It is unlike any other gardening event in the world. Bob Sweet, head of the Royal Horticultural Society’s shows development and Juliet Roberts, named in the Telegraph earlier this year as one of the most influential gardeners, join a panel of Japanese judges.
The competitors have two weeks to build their gardens ahead of a televised Oscar style awards ceremony on Friday 28th September at which the judges announce the winners. The event opens to the public on Saturday 29 September.
Richard Miers, Britain
James Basson (fresh garden silver gilt at Chelsea 2012), France
Jo Thompson (show garden silver gilt at Chelsea 20120, Italy
Kazuyuki Ishihara (artisan garden best in show Chelsea 2012), Japan
Lim in Chong, Malaysia
Xanthe White, New Zealand
David Davidson and Leon Kluge, South Africa
Jihae Hwang (show garden gold medal and President’s medal Chelsea 2012), South Korea
Gabino Carballo, Spain
Karen Stefonick, USA