The word "hedge" appears to stem from the Old English word "HEGG" which is believed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words ;
HAEG - hurdle 
HECG - territorial boundary dead or planted
HEGA - living border boundary 1
Hedges are a bordering and design tool. They enclose and subdivide fields, orchards, yards, parks and gardens. They form vegetative edges, topographic spaces, garden rooms, gateways, screens, enclosures, foci and forms within the landscape.

The term Hedgerow used to refer to 2 hedges running side by side separated by a track or pathway. These hedgerows served 2 traditional purposes , that of being a barrier to livestock and as a means of marking out territory or property boundaries. The term however tends to be used these days to describe a hedge of shrubs and occasional trees that create a border between fields and gardens or to create a privacy wall for a homeowner.

An extreme privacy hedge

It is believed that the Romans may have first planted hedges in Britain but most of the few ancient hedges date from Saxon times, making some of them 1000 years old. The Saxons organized ‘strip farming’ in which each community of people would have a field which was divided into strips separated by grass verges. Each strip was one furrow long (one furlong or 201 metres). People were given a number of strips to farm by the lord of the manor. This system changed in the late Middle Ages when landlords wanted to put boundaries around their property, so they enclosed their land with walls or hedges. Enclosure Acts in the 18th and 19th centuries allowed farmers to put more hedges round their fields and most of Britain’s 300, 000 miles or so of hedges date from this time.

“During the 16th and 17th centuries, dense hedgerow patterns provided shelter for persecuted Protestants in France and Holland to organize their clandestine religious meetings. During the WW II the dense bocage in Normandy caused the invading Allied forces much trouble in advancing to conquer the Nazi regime.”2

In the past hawthorne (Crataegus monogyna) was the most popular choice for hedgerows in the ancient woodland for marking territory or as barriers to contain livestock. Nowadays hedges are commonly constructed of various plant and non-plant material for more ornamental purposes yet still as a privacy tool.  Boxwood, Privet, Beech, Cherry Laurel, Hedge Maple, Hornbeam, Holly and Yew are but a few of the more desirous plants used currently for hedges.
 Designer Luciano Giubbilei's masterful use of hedges at a Chelsea Flower Show garden in 2009

1. Hedgerows, Hedges and Verges of Britain and Ireland
2. Natural History Museum of Britain. www.nhm.ac.uk/index.html

*all photos copyright Todd Haiman unless otherwise noted


Having returned from the Chelsea Flower Show, I must admit it just gets better every year.  Cleve West’s sunken Roman garden won best in show, Diarmuid Gavin theatrics stopped traffic, and my personal favorite garden was Luciano Guibbilei’s for his serene and elegant Laurent Perrier garden. 

Lucian Giubbilei's "Nature and Human Intervention" sponsored by Laurent-Perrier 

Lucian Giubbilei's "Nature and Human Intervention" sponsored by Laurent-Perrier 

Diarmuid Gavin's "Irish Sky Garden"

Diarmuid Gavin's "Irish Sky Garden"

Show gardens (at Chelsea) are proposed to the Royal Horticultural Society almost a year before the actual show and are either accepted or denied.  For sheer uniqueness there was the artisanal Hae-Woo-Soo garden, which I led on about last month. The Hae Woo So garden was one that stretched the boundaries of the “British proper.” One person on the acceptance committee mentioned to me “we knew it would either be extraordinary or be an embarrassment.”  Thankfully, the garden was exemplary and honored with a gold medal. 

According to Jihae Hwang, who designed the garden, this conceptual landscape refers to a place where you “empty your mind.” According to ancient Korean tradition visiting the lavatory (the trip to it) is traditionally regarded as a cathartic experience, a way to spiritually cleanse one’s mind and reconnect with nature through a “natural cycle” -- the physical act that accompanies it. The focal point of the garden is an elegant wooden dunny (an outhouse).  The lintel is low, forcing one to bow as you enter, humbling oneself.  Typically the wooden building (the latrine) serves a dual purpose in that the human waste is left to ferment, creating fertilizer.

Stipa tenuissima, Paeonia lactiflora and Lonicera japonica embrace a stone wall

     A washbasin filled with rainwater to cleanse one's hands

Candlelight to illuminate the path at night

Candlelight to illuminate the path at night

In romantic disorder, plants are arranged along the path to “the throne.”  Small, highly scented lilacs, Syringa wolfii and Syringa dilatata and Lonicera japonica (Honeysuckle) aid in perfuming the air surrounding the latrine. 

**all photos ©Todd Haiman 2014


Every year at the Chelsea Flower Show there’s always one designer who separates themselves from "the pack" in the design of their garden, perhaps with a bit of whimsy, tongue in cheek or simply just choosing not to take themselves too seriously.

In 2009 there was a magical garden created out of plasticine, designed and organized by James May, which elicited childhood memories of "Play-Doh" and plastic fruit “still-lifes” on dining room tables from the crowd.  It was essentially a sculpted art installation framed in the guise of a mystical secret garden. Dozens of people contributed to this garden, across all strata of British society, from children who never handled the material to war veterans that remember when it was the latest invention to professional model makers.

In 2010, “Welcome to Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Crumble & Custard Garden” (a mouthful in more ways than one), a bowl of Yorkshire rhubarb takes center stage.  Yellow Sedum acre ‘Golden Queen’ symbolizes a generous serving of overflowing custard, and the crumble is represented by a stonewall.  A Yorkshire handcrafted oak spoon doubles as a seat on the stone patio.  Rhubarb forcing pots create focal points. According to the designer, bronze fennel is meant to suggest the brown sugar sprinkled on a crumble.  The idea for this garden was envisioned while the designers were having lunch!

This year I’m looking forward to the Hae-woo-so garden. This garden is inspired by the Korean belief in the cathartic and spiritual experience of using the toilet.  Looking forward to the audience’s and critic's comments.


Andy Sturgeon, a highly regarded garden designer had won several medals in past years from the Chelsea Flowers Show. Almost a year prior to designing a Chelsea 2010 show, Andy’s life forever changed.

His partner, Sarah Didinal, the mother of his three young boys  - Luke, ten, Cameron, seven, and Tom, five  - had enjoyed Chelsea Flower Show with him.
A week later Andy found her dead in bed. She was only 37, apparently fit and healthy. She died from an irregular heartbeat. Her last post on Twitter read, 'Going to bed happy.'

Andy reflects on the Daily Telegraph, …..'The way I dealt with Sarah's death was by having goals  -  positive things to work towards, that are more about the future than the past, or even the present,' he says.  'This garden has been one of the tools I've used to help me along.”

“I had the germ of the idea when I was on holiday with the children (after Sarah’s death) in Italy last summer, every day looking out at a dry landscape of evergreen oaks and lavender.”

'I never normally design anything so quickly. But I had this idea of screens so I made a scale model and a few walls, which I slid around, and got down to check the views. This design is all about the views.  It's a metaphor for life. You have choices in the garden  - two different ways to go. Depending upon which path you take  - the direct path or the winding path  - you has different experiences along the way.  As you journey through life, the screens open up and allow glimpses of what you might have experienced if you'd taken another path, but you end up at the same destination."

As a visitor walks around the edge of the garden they also discover ever-changing views.  Three runs of Cor-ten steel subdivide and frame the garden.  Three edifices of Purbeck stone walling add to the suggestion of an enclosed courtyard, while maintaining a sense of openness and space. The contemporary gravel garden has open clearings of sparsely planted gravel, which provide places to pause on a journey that culminates in a courtyard at the rear.  A stately Cork Oak (that he searched extensively to find) and the sound of running water combine to create a contemplative retreat.  Let Andy take you on a tour of his garden.

Find plant information here:


I take an annual excursion to the Chelsea Flower Show as evidenced by my blogging throughout the months of April and May this past year. Lately friends have been asking for my photos and reports on the trip.  So here goes…
In the show garden category there were many thought provoking and stunningly elaborate gardens to speak of, but I’ll highlight the most socially redeeming – “Places of Change”, which was created by the Eden Project (creator of an equally special garden in last year’s show -  “the Key”).  This garden is a collaboration between the Eden Project, Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Communities and Local Government (CLG), Homeless Link (HL) and approximately 50 homeless charities and eight prisons from across the UK.  The garden was built entirely by homeless persons and prisoners – a social investment program.  According to the Eden Project “The garden presents a series of achievements and aspirations from the people that are least likely to be heard and most likely to surprise us.”  Drawing on Eden’s “Growing for Life Program” --“it demonstrates how horticulture is the the foundation for so many opportunities, for example building skills, providing space for recvery, growing business and adapting to changing and difficult times.” Or as Landscape Manager of the garden Paul Stone puts it—“Eden has a worldwide philosophy of wanting to make people aware of the importance of the relationship between people and plants and the whole thing just ties in together. The overall theme is that horticulture is at the centre of life and from it come all the things we need. We can push that message home by involving the most unlikely candidates: homeless people and prisoners - amateurs who may be in the process of training or work experience – giving them an opportunity. We like to think of our teams as buried treasure, the ones that society tends to give up on, but here they are and I’ve got every reason, especially after last year, to expect just as much from this garden. “

Whereas the rest of the show gardens strive for gold medals, when asked if this is of importance, Landscape Manager Paul Stone responded, “Striving for excellence is the aim, if Gold is part of that then fine. We’re not classic gold medal material - our budget is being spent on people. I could buy lots of fine plants, but what benefit would that have for the people we are trying to help? OK, at the moment we’ve got people we’ve never met, who haven’t grown plants before, growing plants. It’s touch and go, but we are approaching it in a professional way and I expect the result to be comparable to the other gardens.”

Further information can be found on their blog
My pictures of the garden follow below, but first one of the many videos off their site which fully illustrates the redeeming value of this project.

There were a multitude of elements and areas to this, the largest garden plot at Chelsea.
vegetable garden
the wishing tree - write a wish and affix it to the tree
my personal favorite - appliances turned into pots


With an eye toward sustainable solutions, Nigel Dunnett, Adrian Hallam and Chris Arrowsmith presented an atypical garden at Chelsea last year… one that is both educational and creative in it’s approach. The “Future Nature” garden looks to a future for landscapes and gardens in a changing and unpredictable climate. This garden presents a number of practical solutions that can be used to create a new type of drought-resistant urban garden especially suited to underutilized city spaces. Its central message is, that by using a combination of any of the garden’s features coupled with careful plant selection, anybody, using simple planting methods and avoiding irrigation except with stored rainwater, can create a colorful and naturalistic garden. It aims to both help alleviate pressure on the urban drainage infrastructure in wet weather and maximize the use of water during increasingly dry summer months.

The central idea to this garden is water.... In the northern hemisphere, due to the rotation of the earth about its polar axis water flows down holes n a clockwise direction.  Check the sink or toilet, next time you go to the loo!!  Henceforth this landscape design is expressed in a spiral, clockwise direction.

Green roof - The colorful flowering green roof acts like a sponge, absorbing half of all the rainfall that falls on it, reducing the rate of stormwater run-off after heavy rainfall.  A mixture of sedums are chosen to withstand the harsh exposed conditions found on rooftops and provide a rich source of nectar for visiting insects on what would otherwise be a sterile and lifeless surface.  Well known are the benefits of green roofs - in addition to stormwater retentions and providing wildlife habitats, they also provide social benefits, improve air quality, modify urban micro-climates, provide insulation against heat and sound within the building and increase the life expectancy of the roof, and in some municipalities provide property tax credits and assist toward leed certification.

Together with the stormwater planter this series of small pools collect any excess rainwater that leaves the green roof.  The water passes thru a series of what is represented as small pools through upright growing aquatic plants that help to clean and purify the water before it spills into the rill (small channel).  The rill is designed to be attractive when not filled with water.

The line of the green roof flows in a spiral round o the pools and then via the rill to the central pool and vertical garden tower.The spiral is found in many cultures as a symbol of life and eternity.... a fitting form for a garden that aims to prolong the life of plants and addresses the pathway to a sustainable future by managing water, the source of life.

Key features of the garden include: a green roof to help reduce surface water runoff as well as enhancing biodiversity; storm water planters and pools to retain water from the roof; a living tower holding drought-resistant plants; butterfly mounds and insect towers stocked with colorful but drought-resistant planting that provide wildlife habitats in a brownfield environment.

Vertical Garden Tower - Full of intricate detail, composed of stacked and reclaimed materials.

Space for plant material, insects and other wildlife to find shelter and homes.

Unlike many “living walls” this also encompasses which require large amounts of water, this vertical garden is not dependent upon continuous irrigation.

Wild Flower Meadow - a designed and stylized version of the cosmopolitan mix of native and non-native plants that colonize urban wasteland sites and can be hotspots for the wildlife that grazes on the native species.

Stormwater Basins - Excess rainwater that leaves the green roof either falls directly into the stormwater planter, which absorbs further waste or drains into the collecting pools.  The planting will tolerate being inundated with water, but will also withstand long periods of drier conditions.  Stormwater basins can be used where rains lack the capacity to deal with all the run-offs from private property.

Like many gardens at Chelsea this garden was relocated to Yorkshire after the show and through its use continues to promote the inventive use of small urban spaces and water management.


Glitz in the Garden. Consider man’s attempt to conquer nature within the landscape as a symbol for wealth and power. Specific oppulent civilizations  provide many examples throughout recorded history – as punctuated by Hadrian’s Villa, Versailles, and Hearst Castle.

Garrett Eckbo- “As social inequieties become more complex, those who have more than the average, and more than they need, tend to express or flaunt such surpluses…. For the common man, dish gardens, patios or suburban backyards may provide symbols of memories of the paradise of the rich.”

From the Telegraph, here is this morning’s article on this year's 20 million pound show garden, the most expensive in the history of “The Great Show”.  (Interestingly, this comes after complaints at last years show that Chelsea had scaled back, reflective of the global recession.)

“David Domoney's design is the most expensive in the event's 97 year history.
The Ace of Diamonds garden will be littered with jewels loaned by Bond Street store Leviev. The garden celebrates the links between plants and precious stones and its centrepiece will be diamond jewellery worth millions that will require unprecedented security.
It will boast a £1 million peony-shaped ring with pink and green diamonds and a daisy-shaped ring set with a rare, flawless blue diamond worth £3.2 million.
Domoney, who formerly appeared on ITV's This Morning, also hopes to include an even more valuable uncut diamond in his elaborate, outdoor display.
The garden will be worth more than all Chelsea's other collections put together when the Royal Horticulture Society's annual showpiece begins on May 25.
Many of the plants being used by Domoney have gemstones in their names such as euonymous emerald gaiety, potentilla gold finger and hosta diamond tiara.
A looping path of stepping stones leads to a central, diamond-shaped patio. When viewed from above, it is said to look like a pendant necklace.
The garden will boast Chiltern marble, Roman plinths and backlit walls with semi-precious stones such as quartz and amethyst.
The gems will be on display for the gardens launch and the duration of the judging.  Domoney, who has previously suggested using Viagra to perk up wilting plants, said: "I always endeavour to introduce something a little bit more entertaining and this garden is something really special.
"I am aiming to give the garden a real James Bond-style feel.
"There will be more bling on display than on Paris Hilton.
"But we will be asking the judges to think of Helen Mirren for a touch of class.
"It's high end and extreme but with a strong horticultural message. Its a jewellery box garden. "This garden will be the most expensive that Chelsea has ever had or is ever likely to have.”
"It will be more valuable than all the rest of Chelsea collections from this year and last year combined." RHS shows director Bob Sweet said: "We are all very excited that this very valuable diamond will be sat on a table in David's outdoor garden.  "We have tight security at Chelsea anyway but something like this will require special attention, which it will definitely get."
Chelsea's world-famous show gardens typically cost no more than £250,000.
The Ace of Diamonds is the second of four Domoney gardens designed for airline sponsor BMI's Diamond Club, following on from last year's Ace of Spades.
For that, a Harley Davidson motorbike took pride of place in a large pit shaped like a giant ace of spades and lined with recycled garden spades.”
 Last years Ace of Spades garden. 


Maquette of "I Dream, I Seek My Garden."

Here is the third in my presentation of gardens I've enjoyed at Chelsea past.
I Dream, I Seek My Garden was brought to life by a Malaysian, Linda Davies in 2008, with the help of Chinese artist, Shao Fan. Davies said her aim was to introduce modern Chinese gardens to the western world. Backed by KT Wong Charitable Trust, her father’s organization dedicated to promoting cultural understanding and Anglo-Chinese relations, Davies commissioned the acclaimed Shao Fan to make her vision a reality. Designer Sarah Eberle assisted Shao Fan as project manager.

The garden they came up with was designed to seem like it was recently discovered, excavated from an abandoned archaeological site in modern England. The top level is an English meadow which opens out to a hidden Chinese temple garden below. Step into the multi-layered garden, and you are transported to the Song dynasty era where colors are cold and sober. The deliberate ruin is set in a sunken arena deep in the ground and is part landscape, part building and part garden. Within its weathered earthen walls are mossy rocks and venerable artifacts. A semi-dilapitated but magnificent Chinese pavilion stands as a centrepiece in the heart of the garden, the wooden pavilion sinking into the soil to represent the increasing disappearance of traditional Chinese culture. The cultural symbolism of the plants is of paramount importance, notably the pine, bamboo and plum. These are known as the “three friends of winter”, as the first two are evergreen, while the plum flowers bloom only at the end of winter.  The garden is closed off from the outside world by very high walls, which in the traditional Chinese gardens serve the very practical purpose of conferring privacy.

“China’s oldest architecture has survived, but it has been far harder to preserve the gardens. This garden is a way to bridge the present with the China of hundreds of years ago. I’m trying to find a way back to our traditions of art and culture, and for the Western world to have a glimpse of it,” said Shao Fan.


This serene garden was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith for Laurent-perrier in 2008.  Tom will be designing the 2010 show garden as well.
Designed as a contemplative space with a dreamy and slightly surreal character, it is a garden based on the idea of juxtaposing opposites. The layout of the garden is made by overlaying a number of separate patterns. A grove of 30-year-old hornbeams pruned to appear like rounded ‘clouds’ seem to float above a criss-crossing net of Flemish brick paths.
An undulating tapestry of predominantly green herbaceous plants including RodgersiaMoliniaEpimediumAsarumHosta ‘Devon Green’ and Astrantia is designed to calm, with an emphasis on form and texture, rather than colour. Zinc tanks brimming with water (and appearing to overflow) are placed throughout the garden and offer a visual link to the large zinc-panelled rear wall. Its beautiful patina and cool blue-grey color providing the perfect backdrop to the contemplative setting.

The garden was in part a reaction against the traditional ‘Chelsea garden’ with its eye-catching features and assumptions about how people will experience a space. It was also about atmosphere and mood, setting an intentional contrast between the alluring beauty of the exterior with its white peonies, and the more melancholic middle part of the garden.

Tom Stuart-Smith on his garden....