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Inside The Fragrance Garden
Harrods will be exhibiting a concept garden at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in May 2015. As part of Pop-Up Flowers - Harrods' celebration of all things floral, we are proud to present ‘The Fragrance Garden’ - a celebration of perfume through the medium of flowers, created in collaboration with award-winning garden designer Sheena Seeks.
We spoke to Sheena about her inspirations and innovations, plus her team share their top five gardening tips...
Taking the art of perfume making as its theme, the concept garden reflects the cross-fertilisation of nature and science, as well as traditional floral perfumes. Infusing the tradition of ‘enfleurage’ - a technique whereby the scent of flowers is captured in wax, on one side of the garden, flowers appear enclosed in oversized laboratory beakers and test tubes, while on the adjacent side; they reappear, transformed into giant paper blooms. And to bring in the digital side of nature, the garden also features augmented reality images on giant screens dividing the garden, which will leap into life when viewed through a phone or tablet.
Can you talk us through your concept for the garden with Harrods - what was your inspiration?
The brief was to design a garden about fragrance. I looked at the science of perfume-making, extracting scent from flowers by ‘enfleurage’ or distillation. The natural perfume from real flowers is transformed into ‘perfume’, an imitation of nature. The result smells like flowers but is unreal as paper flowers. I wanted to explore the idea of imitating nature, and the nature of reality further. That is where the augmented reality comes in.
Can you explain the technology element in the garden - how it came about and its place in the design?
The augmented reality technology is a way of playing with the idea of layers of reality. Going from living flowers to imitation paper flowers, then into cyberspace.
What is your design process?
A garden design flows easily from a strong concept. I have images of the garden in my head as I am working on the concept and a clear idea of the garden in 3D before it becomes a plan on paper. It is all there by the time I get to a drawing board. That’s when it becomes something that fits into a space. I still use pencils, pens and paper. I got into the habit of always carrying a small sketch pad and pencil when I was at art college so that I can work on ideas or designs anywhere.
How did you get into garden design
I got into garden design almost by accident by entering a competition to design a conceptual show garden. The first garden I designed and built was a show garden. I visited Chaumont-sur-Loire the same year and discovered conceptual gardens.
What is your most favourite natural spot in the world?
The best place in the world is the beach near where I live. It is like a natural Zen garden. My favourite garden is probably Little Sparta in the Borders or Charles Jencks Garden of Cosmic Speculation.
Is there a particular flower you love working with?
White daisies grew all over my mum’s garden and have a strong emotional pull for me.
What flowers would make up your perfect posy?
A posy needs to be scented so I think sweet peas are the best.
Read on to discover five top gardening tips from gardener, Douglas Laughton, who helped Sheena create 'The Fragrance Garden'...
- What To Pot: There are a lot of things you can grow in pots throughout the year to bring some colour to the garden. For summer it’s easy as the garden centres are packed with options. Something that works on a window sill or a pot in the garden isn't grown for its flowers at all because next to the leaf colour, the flowers can't compete! Try Coleus plants, either on their own or with cool colours in the summer. For outside, I use the Kong series of Coleus plants; they have large, deeply-coloured leaves, some dark chocolate, red or green with mosaic splashes. They are very bright and attention-grabbing and the smaller ones can be grown on window sills, but be careful of strong sun scorching the leaves. They grow quickly and need regular watering and a couple of slow-release feeds through the season. Outside, team them up with white or cream Argyranthemums.
- What To Plant In Winter: This is the season when you really need some colour and interest. Put a pot near your door and plant in Hellebores; Ericsmithii types are the best with 'Winter Moonbeam' flowering from February in a warm spot and keeping its flowers until the end of April. Put in tulip bulbs in the pots at the same time in autumn and you get a double hit of colour.
- How To Care For Orchids: The gift orchid can be a bit tricky, it's good for a couple of years on a not-too-sunny windowsill if watered and fed correctly; after that they seem to languish without re-potting and careful trimming.
- Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh For Longer: Pushing too many flowers in the wrong-sized vase is a basic error. Cutting a bit of greenery from the garden often freshens up some tired specimens. Make sure to feed them and remove any dead which might rot in the water.
- To Prune Or Not To Prune: It's hard to generalise about pruning but one or two rules of thumb do work: it’s better to prune, if you have to, straight after flowering. With shrubs, use the rule of three: cut out a third of the oldest wood each year to gently renew it and most plants aren't meant to look like lollipops so don't cut them like it - go for a more natural look.
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