There is a well-known saying about history that goes something like “you have to know where you’ve been to know where you are going”.
This is as true of garden design as it is of any other branch of history. Ten years ago seven gardens were created here at Harlow Carr to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the society in 2004.
In those ten years, since 2004, the gardens have been a hugely popular visitor attraction, whatever time of year there is always something of interest.
Four gardens are particularly popular, the first shows the typical style of garden design dream team; architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and the plantswoman and artist Gertrude Jekyll. Lutyens was an expert at creating crisp formal garden spaces with steps, sunken areas, formal vistas and often included water features. In our Edwardian garden the sunken pond terrace is linked by steps to the formal pathway past skilful herbaceous borders to a wildflower meadow on one side and a nut walk on the other.
The next garden is the 1950s Festival of Britain Garden. Most remember fifties gardens as crazy paving, lots of roses and colourful summer bedding but this garden takes its cue from the 1951 Festival of Britain site at the South Bank of the Thames in London, where the modern concrete and glass architecture of the Festival Hall was the backdrop.
Our garden is based on the design used by Christopher Tunnard for the garden at Bentley Wood the home of the modern architect Serge Chermayeff. The design is minimal and pared back, has modern sculpture on display and also frames nature in the birch copse beyond. Innovative wire supports are used for climbing plants highlighting the technological spirit of the age.
The 70s Garden, is loosely based on the garden design style promoted by the garden designer John Brookes in his ground breaking 1969 book, The Room Outside.
Out goes the high maintenance lawn, in comes patio gardening with water features, low- maintenance ground cover plantings and a modern garden style with plants that remind you of those Mediterranean package holidays; a garden to relax and entertain in with minimal gardening effort.
The fourth is the Contemporary Garden. Technically this is a 21st century garden but the design by the Irish designer Diarmuid Gavin in 2004 is typical of his late 20th century work. His brief was to show what could be done in an average sized suburban garden.
Crossing a small courtyard you enter a cedar and steel elliptical secret garden with lush plantings leading to a sunken steel and glass garden room under the canopy of a golden Indian bean tree, all set off with a bold use of colour on the outside walls, just for the fun of it!