Evolution is the concept behind Howard’s environmental garden for sculpture
Pre-Registered SGD Member Nic Howard’s first Chelsea show garden is a collaboration with award-winning British artist, David Harber, and their design seeks to provoke reflection on our changing relationship with the environment through time. Portraying a physical manifestation of evolution using planting and sculptures, the garden shows a progression from the Bronze Age to the present day, while highlighting the impact that humans have had on the environment.
Howard has previously designed two of David Harber’s award-winning Chelsea trade stands, but last year RHS Director General Sue Biggs suggested that the pair consider upping the stakes and creating a show garden. “That got us motivated and we started to brainstorm themes,” he says. “The environment is obviously a hot topic right now, and something we both feel passionate about, so David and I then worked out how we could create a thought-provoking narrative using his bespoke sculptures and my design skills.”
The final design offers a ‘worm hole’ view through the ages, culminating in David’s main sculptural piece, the ‘Aeon’, which represents a timeless ‘vital force’. Made from bronze with a gold-plated starburst/iris-effect at its centre, the Aeon will sit in front of a 3m-tall DesignClad porcelain wall, which represents the infinite universe.
The planting and sculptures work together to tell the story. At the front of the garden, wild plants, such as Stipa, Erigeron, Euphorbia and Linaria sit with David’s piece, the Coluna, symbolising organic evolution from Mother Earth. This area gives way to more cultivated plants, including peonies, lupins and geraniums, and a screen, ‘Refinement’, that represents our appreciation for aesthetics. However, the screen’s geometric pattern has a flaw within, showing how our pursuit of beauty has also had a negative impact on the environment and the planet’s equilibrium.
The space in front of the ‘Aeon’ includes a sculptural bench, ‘Contemplation’, which references the DNA helix, while a water feature, ‘Reflection’, together with blowsy colourful planting depict the present day but also provide a space to reflect on where we go next. “We want to convey the message that following the route we have been on is not inevitable and we can make changes to avoid catastrophe. But I also want the garden to be beautiful and give visitors planting ideas to take home.”