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Walkers Wharf Garden by Graham Bodle

Best Artisan Garden

I can’t help feeling the judges have been in a slightly bolshy frame of mind this week. Certainly they’ve been in uncompromising mood, with not the slightest concession to things like popularity or crowd-pleasing.

And so they walked past Sarah Eberle’s perfect orange tree and the breathtaking beauty of Gosho no Niwa (No Wall, No War); they turned from the thoughtful planting on the World Horse Welfare garden and the hand-made wooden boat on the Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden. And instead, they chose as their favourite a garden full of post-industrial rusty metal and hardly a flower in sight.

It might not have been my own choice for the best of the exceptionally good lineup of Artisan gardens this year. But I could see why they singled it out.

The planting was delicately understated yet full of unusual choices like rushes, water mint and miniature hostas. And it had several beautiful little touches: I loved the way the rusty orange flowers on the Pinus sylvestris were picked up in the seat and again in the rusty metal.

It also chimes with one of the RHS’s Big Messages at the moment in showing how a ‘grey’ bit of Britain – i.e. a post-industrial landscape full of the debris of heavy industry – could be transformed through planting. And in the process, managed somehow to convince me that things like rusty old chains made for some really rather funky garden sculpture.

Besides, any garden that shoehorns a socking great iron crane into a tiny 5m x 7m space and then sets it off with plants in such a way as to make it look pretty damn fantastic has already pulled off a fairly spectacular feat of imagination and engineering. Which, when you think about it, is reason enough to claim the top prize. Bloody brilliant.

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