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Plant writings, gardening thoughts & observations of Paul Hervey - Brookes, Award Winning Garden Designer & Plantsman.
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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Autumn, The Equinox & The Show!

Autumn is almost always thought of as a glorious last chance, a celebration of the year passing. Harvest festivals offer a blaze of colour and opportunity to reminisce with friends old and new, over the joys of the summer.

For me the Autumn also signaled the approach of the Malvern Autumn Show and my first public test as the Chris Beardshaw Scholar 2009. Since my first show garden at Malvern a year ago I have felt a connection with Malvern. The drive for me through the Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire countryside before opening up on Birtsmorton common is filled with natures signals. Along the way hedgerows seemed to be bursting this year with rich berries, juicy blackberries seemed to jostle for space with glossy burgundy hawthorn and darker sloes. Through Eastnor a canopy of fine landscape trees was beginning to flush golden as Tillia begin to draw energy back for the winter ahead. Another sign that a different season is becoming to us was the numbers of pheasant across the fields as the traditional game season begins.

At Malvern the hills both seemed to bask in the late sunshine whilst both taking on a brooding presence with clouds hanging low. Natures signals prompted the theme of my own garden at the show.

During September a natural event takes place which is natures sharpest signal of the approaching change. It effects us also and this year I noticed that almost everyone on the show ground complained for one brief day of feeling ‘out of sorts’, the Equinox had arrived. 
My garden was designed to ask what it means. For many and traditionally the calendar tells us this is the beginning of the end, the warm summer days are over and the dormancy of winter is almost on us. Pagans had a tradition for this time of year and saw winter as a time to sit and reflect over the past years successes but also the things which haven’t gone so well or as we may have hoped.

For the garden I wanted people to reflect on this but also ask if the Equinox removed from our Gregorian calendar is actually the small sparks and beginnings of the process of renewal? Without this clear natural message to produce seed and the chill period which many genus need to germinate in the coming spring then spring itself may not actually happen. I took the average day length hours of the seasons and built a wall which surrounded a garden planted to celebrate the joys of the autumn season. Through this wall I cut 4 openings with paths, all calculated in size to give a hypothetical window on to Autumn from another season allowing the on-looker to engage with this time of year from points you would not normally engage with it from. To add to this sense of questioning I placed a large urn, deliberately off centre with a carpet of textural green planting to signify our own hopes and desires through the seasons. Just like Pandora’s mythical box with only hope left inside the urn disappeared when you saw the garden from the opening with represented Autumn and Summer but became very dominate when you looked from the opening representing Spring and Winter, both times when we as gardeners project a lot of hope in the coming seasons.

Over the course of the show the garden was very well received by the public and its sponsor Bradstone. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded it a Silver-Gilt Medal and Best in Show for the show garden category, which I was utterly delighted with and which came as a total surprise.
Now just 72 hours after the closure of the show all that remains of the garden are photographs and a collection of materials waiting to live again. Bradstone very kindly allowed me to give the materials to a school local to my design practice, who with a little guidance from me will create a long term show-garden based on ‘The Umbrella’s’ by Renoir at the Rococo Garden, Painswick.


J. Rose said...

Hello Paul, my wife and I came to to the show for the first time and loved your garden. It seemed effortlessly beautiful and looked like a real garden! All the best for the future!

Claire Potter said...

I loved your garden and think it is extremely interesting how your conceptual thinking is developing without you losing your style.
well done, and congratulations on your awards - they were both highly deserved.
see you soon!

Paul Hervey-Brookes said...

Thank you both, I really enjoyed the challenges of producing this garden and feel it is both very much me and my style whilst also having a strong identity of its own. I think everyone who made gardens and features at the Malvern Autumn Show this year (and the countless unsung people who do the leg work which allows us to pitch up and do our bit) all worked hard to produce a show which had a very special feel celebrating, to borrow the phrase, 'the good life'!

Mary Williams said...


I came to the Malvern Show both in Spring and at Autumn to see how you are progressing. The Autumn garden was stunning and you are totally at home with combining plants and producing a high quality garden. I look forward to seeing more of your show gardens over the years!

Barbara Foxley said...

I just found your blog, I didn't go to the Malvern Show, in fact I have never been before but looking at these pictures of your garden makes me wish I had! I am quite a keen gardener and loved reading your posts on plants, I learned something, laughed and reached for the Plant Finder all at the same time!

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