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Chelsea 18: Stuart Towner’s Spirit of Cornwall Garden

Chelsea 18: Stuart Towner’s Spirit of Cornwall Garden

VTB Capital Garden – Spirit of Cornwall. Designed by: Stuart.Charles Towner. Sponsored by: VTB Capital. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Photo: The RHS


Stuart Charles Towner was inspired by Hepworth to create this collaborative garden for VTB Capital


With a ‘Best in Show’ medal under his belt for the ‘Green Seam’ garden at the 2015 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Pre-Registered SGD Member Stuart Charles Towner is about to hit Main Avenue with a design inspired by the work of Barbara Hepworth and composer Leo Geyer.

“To create the final design for the VTB Capital Spirit of Cornwall garden, I worked in collaboration with Leo Geyer, the Artistic Director of Constella OperaBallet,” explains Towner. “Architecture practice Studio Evans Lane and sculptor Sheila Vollmer and were also involved in the design, so it was a group effort.”


Stuart Charles Towner


Inspired by Hepworth, and the music Geyer wrote for the 40th anniversary of Hepworth’s Garden in St Ives, the design is conceived as an outdoor space for a sculptor and a composer. “We spoke with the Hepworth family and they were keen that we did not create a pastiche of her work, but rather a garden influenced by her artistic ideas. So I went to Tate Britain and studied Hepworth’s sculptures for inspiration. I was intrigued by her use of tension, how some of her pieces of work seem to shift and change as you walk around them, and it is that idea that I am trying to convey through my design.”

The metalwork that runs throughout the garden is a physical manifestation of the sound cloud produced by the music composed by Geyer. Using the patterns produced by this sound wave, with its peak expressed by the pavilion, the garden provides an ideal space for composing and performing.

Water features echo the sea views from the St Ives garden, and the continuous circulation of water reinforces the musical motif. Sculptures by Sheila Vollmer nestle among the planting and draw inspiration from the rhythms of the garden design, while the subtropical and temperate plants reflect Cornwall’s unique microclimates. Large-leaved Gunnera, Rodgersia and Fatsia combine with more exotic architectural plants, such as Pseudopanax crassifolius and Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’, hinting at the bold shapes of Hepworth’s sculptures.

“Although it has not always been easy working with so many different creative people, I truly believe collaborations are a great thing,” Towner says. “The sum of our parts has created something unique, and working so closely with others is a great opportunity to learn and grow.” 

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