Tea for 2000 Garden...
The Chelsea Flower Show in London attracts thousands of gardeners
every year. This year’s Tea for 2000 Garden, created by Andy
McIndoe, director of Hilliers Garden Centres, added a sumptuous
oriental appeal, as he explains.
In planning the Hilliers’ garden for the Chelsea Flower Show 2000, the idea of tea gradually surfaced as a suitable and relevant theme. The celebration of the new millennium had prompted many people
to take a more spiritual view of our world and to think more
carefully about how we live our lives. The brewing and drinking of
tea, with its Zen Buddhist links and recognized restorative and
calming powers, seemed to fit naturally into this more gentle
approach. And so the idea of building a teahouse, set peacefully in a
tea garden reflecting oriental philosophies and incorporating exotic
plants, colors, textures and artifacts, began to take shape. The varied
but complementary strands of British tea drinking, Chinese and
Japanese culture, the vibrant colors and images of the ancient silk
and spice trading routes intertwined to inspire us in the creation of a
sumptuous and luxurious garden. What we created with Tea For
2000 was a contemporary tea garden for the 21st century -a garden
for all seasons with bold colorful structure, a teahouse for shelter,
pergolas for shade, and water for reflection and movement.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE ORIENT
|The garden offers plenty of places to sit and enjoy a cup of tea.
The first impressions of the garden were of startlingly vibrant
color - strong pinky reds, deep moody plums, luscious bronzes, and
bright blues, and more than a hint of the Orient all enticed the
visitors in. The lavish and varied blooms and foliage echoed the hues
of the glossy oriental silk cushions scattered on the elegant bamboo
couches inside the teahouse, painted in “Darjeeling Red” - a strong
burgundy paint color created specially for Hilliers. I chose this rich
sensuous color for the pergola and teahouse to enhance the wild silk
colors of rhododendrons, camellias, ceanothus, and roses that made
up the rich tapestry of blooms. It is a color that complements just
about everything in the plant world - glorious with green, ravishing
with blue and gray, striking with yellow and cream, and a natural
partner for red-purple foliage. It worked wonderfully in the Tea for
2000 Garden. The blue note of the plum was brought out in sapphire
blue glazed ceramic pots, post finials, and crushed recycled glass. The
red element picked up the glaze of Shiwan brick-glazed pots. Tea
chests, used as planters at the base of the pergola uprights, added an
element of humor, and pink and gray granite from China added
weight and focal interest.
A THREE DIMENSIONAL SENSE OF SPACE
|A Zensi Gata lantern is buried among Japanese Maple and Vibernum.
The design created an illusion of space in a small area - an
objective that those of us with small modern gardens and busy lives
can relate to. It is important to make time for the calming reflective
moments - perhaps over a cup of tea alone or with friends - and the
garden offered plenty of places to sit.
The garden was designed to be three dimensional - the pergola
and tall shrubs gave height and made use of every level. Built-in
seats were carpeted with tactile and fragrant mint and chamomile.
Roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, and wisteria garlanded the pergolas and
filled the summer air with scent day and night. Azaleas, lilacs, roses,
and lilies added their sweet perfume to the spicy aromatic fragrance
of mint, so popular in glasses of Moroccan and Turkish mint tea, and
bergamot, the easily recognized flavor of Earl Grey. This was garden
aromatherapy at its best and added a subtle link to the world of tea.
A tea garden must, of course, contain camellias, even if the
actual tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a little tender for cultivation in
British gardens and locations with a similar climate. Camellias are
superb plants to grow in containers or in the open ground in
sheltered, shady situations. Plant them near the house, as these
perfect porcelain blooms need to be enjoyed as they brave early
inclement weather. Avoid sites where they catch the early morning
sun, otherwise your blooms will turn brown as early rays thaw the
Foliage was as important as the flowers in designing this tea
garden. Japanese maples, varieties of Acer palmatum, are always
stars at the Chelsea show, and this year, with their graceful oriental
air, they had a major role to play.
In designing the tea garden, it was important that boundaries
and walls created a safe, secure, and intimate atmosphere in which to
relax and unwind. From the dense vertical stems of bamboo to the
large bushy shrubs such as elaeagnus and bold solid mounds of
rhododendrons, the plants created those boundaries. And trimmed
Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ extended the boundaries vertically, the
‘box’ shapes echoing the form of the tea chests.
VERSATILE POTS AND MOVING WATER
|Granite domes imported from Guangdong and Fujian in China add a unique artistic touch
I love permanently planted pots and these were a feature of
Tea for 2000. Again with the tea theme in mind, I chose oriental
glazed pots whose color and shape were as important as that of the
plants they contained. In a small garden area such as this, plants in
pots can be moved, regrouped, and varied according to the season, to
create an ever-changing landscape. I use tulips in spring, fragrant
lilies in summer, and a pot or two of these floral ingredients is all
that is needed to turn a group of foliage plants in pots into a garden
And just as in a traditional Japanese tea garden, the visual
effect of moving water and its gentle trickling sound added an
important dimension to the garden. Amongst the plants and in the
formal areas of water, we placed traditional granite lanterns and
water bowls, used in Japan to offer guests fresh running water for
cleansing the hands and mouth before a tea ceremony. Water ran
smoothly along canals and emerged in gentle bubbles over granite
balls. A gray granite Zensi Gata lantern lent an eye-catching contrast
to the graceful star-like leaves of the Japanese maple and the full
white flower heads of Vibernum. It’s a long way from Chelsea to
Guangdong and Fujian, where the stone originates, but the soft, fluid
lines of these traditional pieces followed the oriental theme and
reminded the visitor of the importance of tea in the lives of different
peoples around the world.
The formal areas of water added an illusion of space and the
teahouse was reached across granite stepping stones, again creating
an atmosphere of security and intimacy. It became almost a floating
hideaway, concealed and sheltered from the outside world. A perfect
place in which to sit and relax and enjoy the view across the water
through the arbors to the lanterns beyond. A perfect place in which
to drink tea.
For more information, please contact: Andy McIndoe, Hilliers Garden
Centre Headquarters, Ampfield House, Ampfield, Near Romsey,
Hampshire, SO51 9BQ, UK. Fax: (44)(0)1794 367830.
After qualifying with a BSc Honours Degree in Horticulture from Bath
University, Andy McIndoe’s early training was with Birmingham City
Amenities and Recreation Department. This was followed by a period
working in Germany for Bruns, a major export nursery. Returning to
England, Andy worked in Bristol before moving to Hillier’s flagship
Winchester Garden Centre.
Tea & Coffee - September/October 2000
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