I wonder what Joseph Paxton would have made of Dan Pearson’s pastiche of the rock garden which he constructed at Chatsworth in 1842? The judges and the pundits were undoubtedly impressed as it won the “Best in Show” award. The feat of lugging all those great rocks down from Derbyshire was enough to win everyone’s admiration. But it’s only impressive to those who haven’t seen the real thing. A single one of Paxton’s creations, the Wellington Rock, is several times the size of Dan Pearson’s garden, and at 50 ft in height would tower over the Grand Pavilion. And the show garden’s water feature, a trout stream, looks rather feeble in comparison to Paxton’s recreation of the roaring waters of The Strid. But the current Duke, the 12th, doesn’t have either the pizzazz or the resources of Paxton’s boss, the 6th Duke.
For me, the best stone work at the Show belonged to Adrian Gray, with his exhibition of balancing stones. He described it as the art of dry stone walling taken to its limit. He demonstrated it for me twice, with complete success, as this video shows.