Juggling the Balance – A Circus Garden for Malvern

A show garden with a one-word brief – ‘Circus’

In 2010 I entered the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship at the Royal Horticultural Society Malvern Spring Gardening Show and was one of seven who built their first Show Garden at a Royal Horticultural Society Show. I had built a couple of displays at The Garden Show, Stansted House, Hampshire but nothing at an RHS show or with the full-on reality of a Show Garden.

At first, I found the brief for this quite perplexing as it was just one word – ‘Circus’. pale small allium

Eventually, I went through several ideas, all of which could have been used for the Show Garden. Hopefully, some of those other ideas will one day make it to another show.

Today ‘The Circus’ exists mainly as Community Projects, teaching people circus skills and putting on performances for local people and relatives. As well as these, groups like the world famous ‘Cirque du Soliel’ put on mind-boggling modern fairy tales with a dreamlike quality. This, therefore, is truly Contemporary Circus for 2010, contemporary meaning of today.

I designed a Community Garden with some dreamlike qualities but also alluded to traditional circus skills like the high wire and juggling. The general idea was that although it was a garden which people could use it was built around the concept that the plants where both the performers and the audience.

bright small alliumAlliums in both purple and white made up the audience and a Wisteria made it’s way up to the high wire in the centre of the garden. Around the outside, on 3 sides I had panels made to look like a circus tent but with a pattern of holes to see through which looked like balls being juggled. These were tied on to the posts with white rope and laced like a Marquee side.

The seats which were like square white podiums were arranged around a round white table top with planting in the centre. On the edges of the space, I used native and wild plants as a reference to the how the traditional circus sets up on the field. It was a cold spring and my white foxgloves were only in bud, as was the Wisteria.

‘Juggling the Balance’ was awarded a Silver-Gilt Medal and ‘Best Garden in the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship’.

You can find out more about the RHS, it’s Shows, Gardens and Membership at https://www.rhs.org.uk/