Well: Andy Sturgeon has done it again with his dinosaur-inspired creation for the Daily Telegraph. It’s huge, sculptural, dramatic, monumental…. and…. oh dear. Not my kind of thing at all.
I really like Andy’s designs as a rule: the last time he won, in 2010, was with a garden I still talk about today. It had a similarly strong design, with sparse, beautiful, well-considered planting, and a haunting sense of atmosphere. It left you with the kind of images that stay on the retina for years afterwards.
This one may stay in my mind for all the wrong reasons. The bold design was, for me, just a bit too bold, a bit too in-yer-face. It kept pulling my eye away from the extraordinary planting I’d rather be looking at, full of beauties I’d never come across before. When you have star plants like this, it’s a crime to have your attention dragged away so you can look at a load of white limestone instead.
Anyway. What do I know. It was all undeniably very ambitious: Andy has shouldered the task of telling the history of the world in a garden, no less, from dinosaurs onwards, bronze stegosaurus plates and all.
For me, though, it was the plants which swung it: my, but they’re special. Their names are like a rollcall of the rare and exotic and sent me scurrying for my plant encyclopedias: Anizoganthus (kangaroo paw) and gaunt, sparse Corokia x virgata I’m familiar with, but the tufty red spires of Echium russicum, grassy Poa labillardierei and Ephedra fragilis, delicate Bulbine frutescens… all had me rifling feverishly through the pages.
The effect was so ethereal, otherworldly, alien: a world of sparse, twisted stems and delicate, shy flowers in silvers and tangerine oranges, so unfamiliar you could believe a stegosaurus might walk around the corner at any minute. It convinced better, in fact, than any amount of firepits and paving.