RHS Tatton Park Flower Show: The Outside-In Shed

The outside view of the Outside-In shed

At first glance, this might seem like quite a normal shed. Yes, there’s a tree growing out of the roof: I’ll give you that. And the fine collection of antique tools does seem to be overspilling in a surprisingly orderly fashion – it’s regimented, even, as if it were intended to be there. And is that just decking, or could it be the wooden floor of the shed, laid around the ground on the outside?

The Outside-In Shed was part of the Garden Hideaway section of the Tatton Park Flower Show. Talking to the designer, Carolin, we learned that a few days earlier it had been a brand new shed, and had been specially distressed for the show. Her term was ‘shabbyed’.

The garden was a 21st century designer’s version of the 17th century poets’ conceit. As The Poetry Foundation puts it:

a poetic conceit is an often unconventional, logically complex, or surprising metaphor whose delights are more intellectual than sensual.

Except that when plants are involved, you’re never that far away from the sensual. The twist was that the inside of the shed had been turned into “a peaceful garden made as a retreat from busy gardening”, to use Carolin’s words.

Peering inside, curious visitors found a hideaway of a different kind from that they might have been expecting: a wooden chair underneath the tree, surrounded by a miniature woodland garden of shade-tolerant plants. Variegated hosta, ferns, thick green moss, foxgloves, alchemilla mollis and carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’’ carpeted the floor, while a musky scented rambling rose, Rosa ‘Snow Goose’ had begun to climb up a trellis fastened to the wall. On another trellis, a young Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) added its sweet, heady scent to the mix.  

A Shed where the outside and inside have been reversed

Handily placed gardening books offered a way to while away a quiet hour, though any gardener reading here in bad weather would need to be prepared to wear something like a sou’wester to deflect the drips from above, otherwise destined for the back of the neck.

I loved the way this extended image played itself out with many little details and was left feeling intrigued. This may be more of an idea than a practical garden, but it was designed to juxtapose, usurp and manipulate our expectations – like any good conceit – and it was utterly charming to see. I imagine that almost everyone who looked inside found themselves breaking into a smile.

I’m sharing this as my take on the weekly photo challenge: edge, which Google defines as:

  • the outside limit of an object, area, or surface.
  • the sharpened side of the blade of a cutting implement.

There’s no challenge next week. What will we do?

Links for more information

The Outside-In Garden was voted best of the Garden Hideaways at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in 2016. The inventive designer was Carolin Rogers of Turning Leaf Garden Designs Ltd.

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