This slideshow is of pictures taken every day whilst the garden was being built- from September 25th when it was a green-field site, to 8th October when the Judges came round. Seeing one photo glide effortlessly into another there is no hint of the drama heartache worry and sheer bloody hard work that went into making it. Now that it’s finished it seems a bit of a miracle and I’m sure that the eleven other designers in this competition feel exactly the same when they look back on the construction of their gardens.
The organisors of the first ever Gardening World Cup have been overwhelmed by the response of the Japanese public. There were more than 100,000 visitors in the first few days, which so exceeded expectations that the event has been extended for a further 20 days and by all accounts the crowds are still pouring in.
It would have been bliss to stay there for the full month, but unfortunately my life isn’t that Slow. On my return to an exceptionally cold and wet England I have been delighted to have been contacted by Angela Colley, a relative of Frank Taylor, after whom my garden was named.
Whenever I eat in a new place I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. Hotels and restaurants are constantly trying to stay ahead of the game, so change is everywhere- in menus, in decoration and even in crockery and tableware. If an idea is good it will soon find its way up north to one of my hotels. But its amazing how often designers who are trying to make something which is different, which stands out, forget about or ignore the fundamental principal of functionality.
I designed my garden with a broad central path specifically to allow the public to walk along it, so they could get up close to the plants and, especially, up close to Alan Ward’s magnificent statue of an angel. I also wanted the public to be able to look closely at the stained glass windows, to see Frank Taylor’s name engraved there and to be able to compare the figure of an angel in the glass with the angel carved by Alan ward.
There’s a saying that you should try anything once except incest and Morris Dancing. Should “anything” include raw horse meat? When my Japanese hosts let slip that they enjoy eating horse meat raw I told them, much to their surprise, that I was up for it. As the picture shows, the meat is intensely red. It’s much leaner than Japanese beef, so some would say that it’s healthier although in my opinion there’s nothing unhealthy at all about animal fat.
Someone remarked that eating Blowfish is like playing Russian Roulette. Blowfish, which is known in Japan as Fugu, are the world’s second most poisonous vertebrate. The poison is in the skin and the liver and it has no known antidote. Several Japanese are killed by eating Fugu every year, in spite of the fact that there is a strict law requiring that Fugu may only be prepared by chefs with a special licence.
This is much more fun than the Chelsea Flower Show. At Chelsea the crowds were huge and we never tired of hearing lovely comments from the general public, but the public’s questions did tend to be rather repetitive- “what’s this plant called?” and “what colour paint have you used?”, which can get wearing after several hours.
“Horticulturally the garden is perfect. The planting couldn’t be better” - Kate Hillier, Chair of the Judges “Jonathan’s English garden with it’s white colour scheme has created something of a sensation here. It is without a doubt the people’s favourite” Phil Jacobson- Gardening World Cup Organiser “It’s like being in heaven”
I could do with a bit of the Slow Life because the last three days have been some of the busiest of my life. The gardens must be finished in time for Judging- at 10am on Friday the 8th. There have been several days of high drama in the rush to get the garden completed. First, we had the saga of the missing stained glass windows, which were shipped from England two weeks ago but disappeared in transit.
Right at the start, when we began to plan for the Gardening World Cup we were told that the event would take place in the Typhoon season. “Beware strong winds” we were told, and we assumed, perhaps a little innocently, that this was the worst which the weather would throw at us. And so we weren’t really expecting this morning’s events.
Today I was picked up at 8 to go plant hunting. As this painting by Tina Bone shows the flowers in my garden are predominantly white and so we were out hunting for any white flowers in bloom at this time of year-not an easy task as the season is so late. This arrangement seems a little bizarre after doing the RHS shows at Hampton Court and Chelsea where the plants are carefully chosen months in advance and are clearly monitored as they grow to maturity.
The idea of Slow Life is to take the principles of Slow Food, which are “good, clean and fair”, and extend them to life in general.
Here in the Lake District, the air is clean, the pace is slow and the atmosphere is calm. If we don’t grow food ourselves, we can buy it in friendly small shops, where you know the quality is going to be the best.
This blog is a celebration of the Slow Life, with forays into the world of design, music, the arts, gardens, and my particular weakness, Japan.