Our design was chosen to be part of the first Future Gardens Festival at the conservation project Butterfly World in St Albans. Unlike most show gardens, our garden is open to the public for several months of every year. We had to create a garden that looked great straight away and would continue to develop over the years. The competition brief specified only that the gardens had to be pollinator friendly and that the design should be conceptual. We collaborated with the sculptor Chloe Leaper to develop the concept of The Release Garden.
The garden is designed to affect the emotions in the same way that listening to music can affect our emotional state. The first section of the garden is an enclosed and chaotic tangle of logs, designed to engender a feeling of enclosure and oppression. Ivy, honeysuckle and other woodland plants clamber over the tangle. The logs then open up to release the visitor into a clearing planted with cheerful flowers, resulting in an uplifting feeling of liberation and expansiveness. The final section of the garden consists of reflecting pool surrounded by tall grasses. A sculpture appears to rest on the surface of the pool. The visitor can sit on a log bench carved from found timber to watch the dragonflies swooping across the pond. This is an area of calm and reflection.
The log tangle was constructed using 15 tonnes of alder from Stourhead Forest. We developed an original construction method to weave the logs into a stable tangle. Semi-mature twisted willows were planted using a digger to create instant impact, although we regretted specifying willows when the first summer turned out to be a drought and they required constant watering! We had a wonderful response to the garden on the opening day with many commentators saying our garden was their favourite Future Garden. Cleve West, who has won gold several times at Chelsea Flower Show, said our garden was particularly successful at conjuring a sense of place. We were delighted with this comment as our aim had been to create an experience, not just a garden.