The Return of the Folly?

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Press release 16/05/2011

  • Landscaper Twig Group predicts retro revival in urban garden design
  • Chilstone Garden at Chelsea offers a stunning 21st century reimagining of an 18th century tradition

British urban gardens may soon be host to contemporary versions of the 18th century folly, a fixture in the grounds of many stately homes. That is according to landscapers Twig at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

If it seems fanciful to have an everlasting ice sculpture standing in a paddle pool by a temple on a garden path made of turquoise deep-pile
carpet that’s because it is. It makes a statement and it is full of eccentricity. It is a folly, with its centerpiece Temple borrowed from
another era – and it could herald a retro revival in town garden design. For a week in May it is part of a striking urban garden at the RHS
Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chilstone Garden (picture attached) has been designed by the award-winning Heather Appleton, making her debut at Chelsea, and is
being built and project-managed by the Kent landscaping firm, Twig. Heather’s design for the urban garden revives materials and ideas from
the past and gives them a modern twist. She has mixed old and new, technologies and textures to create a retreat for busy people to chill out

Heather says: “When architectural stone makers Chilstone approached me to design their Chelsea garden I was inspired by the sound of their
name – Chill-stone. I used one of Chilstone’s ‘old school’ stone statues – a cherubic boy holding up a bowl full of ice cubes, with a dog at his feet -– and had it cast in resin. It’s a material which can last forever, so the everlasting ice sculpture was born – and may be an antique of the future. I like the contradiction in terms – a conventional figure transformed into what could be the most expensive ice bucket in the showground, melting into a paddle pool below.”

The sculpture is made of the same material used by Italian artist Mauro Peruccetti for his recent jelly baby art installation in London’s Marble Arch. “Follies are meant to be whimsical, foolish and purely decorative, to serve no purpose. But there’s nothing foolish about this folly. It serves as a chill-out space, so it is functional and I guess that is another contradiction in terms,” says Heather.

Additionally, the Chilstone Garden includes

  • A luxuriously soft deep-pile turquoise outdoor carpet instead of
  • A neo-classical stone temple, inside which hangs a retro Eero
    Aarnio hanging see-through bubble chair
  • Snowball shaped seats
  • An intricate pattern of wild grasses and winter-white plants,
    including Stachys byzantine, perhaps the coolest plant in the
    garden looking as though it is encrusted with ice yet flourishing in full sun.

Heather says that she likes to try to source materials in a show garden that haven’t been seen or used before. She plumped for the resin after
seeing an ice sculptor at work surrounded by crowds at an exhibition. “It was mesmerizing to watch and I thought that having our own ‘ice
sculpture’ would create a real sense of theatre.”

She is using carpet rather than paving because of its slinky soft feel underfoot as a contrast to the stone and ice. Bright turquoise fits in with
the chilled theme. She says: “ I used a similar outdoor carpet at BBC Gardeners World Live in 2010 in bright purple and show visitors loved it – especially the men, for some reason!”

Heather says that all the materials in the garden have a retro feel: “shag pile” carpet, resin products, the acrylic Eero Arnio bubble chair.
“Everything I use is like a come-back kid – a bit like platform shoes – only I remember everything first time round.”

The Twig Group have the task of constructing the garden. Managing director David Eyre predicts that Heather’s design is so cool that it will
inspire others to create their own urban follies. He says: “We were thrilled to have been hand-picked by Heather to make her design
become a reality. She is a perfectionist – as we are at Twig, so we’re confident of working well together. Heather is highly creative – and her
eye for precision and perspective means we are all being kept on our toes as we build what we hope will be one of the most inspirational show garden at Chelsea.”