Elvis Costello’s Landscape Lessons: 10 ideas from installation gardens

What exactly was Elvis Costello on about when he crooned "I don't want to go to Chelsea"?

I like to imagine an unfortunate childhood incident involving too much sunshine and an overdose of roses and sugary drinks courtesy of Great Aunt Fanny dragging the innocent lad around that fine bastion of Englishness, the Chelsea Flower Show.

I'm sure someone will set me straight.

Elvis notwithstanding, as the world’s gardening eyes turn this week to the opening of the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show, it seems a good time to chat about festival gardens. Can these temporary installation gardens provide clues to benefit our home landscapes, or are they a just a bit of a novelty, and waste of precious resources?

The worst garden festivals are truly throw-away. They last barely a few days, and a huge amount of time and effort is invested in making instant gardens that end up in landfill. The best garden festivals do things differently, often using materials and plants that can be recycled or reused, mulched or donated.  Most importantly, they invite us to think about our gardens and landscapes in different ways.

Here are 10 Ideas from Installation Gardens that can be used to help shape your own landscape. 

These images are all from the International Garden Festival, held every year in Chaumont-sur-Loire. Although the festival theme changes yearly, the over-arching aim of the festival is to inspire people to think differently about what a garden is, and can be. Garden festivals are but one of a range of temporary or installation parks that challenge us to re-think our landscapes. I find them so intriguing that I’ve devoted a whole chapter of my forthcoming book to discussing the world of Installation Parks.  But that's a whole other Elvis Costello song.

Now I want to hear from you.

Which of the 10 Ideas most appealed to you and why? Which can you see working in your garden landscape? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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