Diarmuid Gavin designs Harrods Garden for Chelsea 2016
The ‘Harrods British Eccentrics Garden’ will see Gavin take a break from his signature contemporary gardens with an alternative take on the quintessentially English garden, in which he embraces flowing herbaceous perennials, formal topiary and regimented structure.
Diarmuid Gavin is a popular designer who can always be relied upon to come up with the unusual, the interesting and the challenging. For his 2016 Chelsea garden he will show a splash of quirky eccentricity in a homage to English cartoonist and illustrator William Heath Robinson. This eccentricity will sit alongside Arts and Crafts elegance and promises to produce a garden that contains humour, design, integrity, detailed execution and heritage.
Heath Robinson was best known for drawings of complicated machines designed to achieve simple outcomes. In the UK, the term ‘Heath Robinson’ entered the language during the First World War as a description of any unnecessarily complex and impracticable device and to this day it is employed to describe temporary fixes using whatever materials are to hand.
For Gavin, Heath Robinson’s playful drawings have made him an un-convential British hero and with the Heath Robinson idology played out in the Harrods garden, the quirks, humour and eccentricities of what it means to be British will be reflected.
Bobbing Buxus spheres, twirling trees, pop-up flower beds, garden furniture which flips, automatic shearing topiary machines and an octagonal folly which raises its hat in a final flourish, are all just some of the Heath Robinson-inspired elements.
Harrods Managing Director, Michael Ward, explains that this year they wanted to create a garden that would embody the essence of tradition, beauty, innovation and excellence: “A garden that would capture a quintessential British style and perfectly reflect Harrods values and traditions, but with a playful and quirky twist,” he says. “Harrods has had a working relationship with Diarmuid for more than 10 years and we felt he would be the perfect person to design our garden and bring this vision to life.”
Gavin has pulled together a team that includes experts from the worlds of architecture, engineering and blacksmithing. Of course we can also expect some of the best growers, plantsmen and plantswomen in the UK and Ireland. He regards it as important to draw on skills from a range of generations from both the design and horticultural worlds.
He is working with a technical college on the design of the garden’s moving parts and has invited one of the most celebrated plantswomen in the world – garden writer, lecturer and broadcaster Helen Dillon – to join him on his project.
The garden will feature an octagonal tower, a folly that will reveal itself to show visitors with a flurry – demonstrating that nothing is as it seems. A shed will contain Heath Robinson-inspired gadgets. The garden’s formal elements include conical topiary bay trees and an Italianate sunken water feature with sentry-like edging.
To celebrate the garden and the start of the summer season, throughout the month of May, Harrods will be hosting a storewide campaign and a range of in-store events – some of which will feature eminent horticultural luminaries, including Gavin and Dillon.