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Juggling the Balance

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…

A show garden with a one word brief: 'Circus'​

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 this groups like the world famous Cirque du Soliel, who put on mind boggling modern fairy tales with a dream-like quality. This ,therefore, is truly Contemporary Circus for 2010 and the contemporary meaning of it today.

Barry Chambers at Malvern Spring Show

So, I designed a Community Garden with some dream like 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.

Juggling the Balance square 5

Alliums in both purple and white made up the audience and a Wisteria made its 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 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.’

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