In 2014 I was part of the team that built The Quiet Garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Flower Festival in aid of the Quiet Garden Movement. The challenge was to create a peaceful haven in a busy showground. I wanted to show how the design of a space can bring people into a calmer state of mind. Using techniques learned from Japanese tea garden design and from 25 years of my own experience, with a very small budget and a very dedicated team, we built the garden.
As you can see below the garden was a design of concentric circles. As the eye moves round the circles and remains within the garden, which is enclosed by trees and shrubs, the outer world of the showground begins to fade away.
The movement of water in the central fountain holds the gaze and the gentle splashing commands attention so the outside world continues to disappear from consciousness.
There is a simple stone labyrinth in the gravel leading eventually to the stone seat. You have to look down and concentrate on your feet as you walk and follow the twists and turns of the path. Your attention is on the task in the garden at that moment. There is no room in your head for worrying distractions and the world slips further away.
Once the seat is reached all is peace and quiet and enclosure. Various people sat in lengthy deep conversation, oblivious to anything happening outside the garden……
……………and the crowds of people who were looking at them!
The planting was designed to be colourful but soft with plenty of foliage interest. The tiny new leaves on the silver birches created an entrancing dappled pattern on a wall. There was plenty to hold your attention.
And what did people think? They often arrived and simply stood and looked, completely silent and lost in reverie. People saw what was close to their hearts and I was told variously that it was a Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and a Quaker garden. People saw church buildings in the arches and the colours of the Church year in the fountain and the planting. Those with no religious affiliation saw peace and beauty and quiet repose. It was enjoyed by all ages. The little party of school children walked the labyrinth with enthusiasm and were intrigued by the idea that ‘You lose yourself in a maze but you find yourself in a labyrinth’.
The garden won the people’s choice award. What better reward could there be?
My thanks to Jill Smith and Jay Ashworth who took many of the photographs. You can read more about visitors’ response to the garden in my blogs of May 14th and 22nd 2104.