A giant stumpery

Several years ago, I visited the avant-garde garden festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire; an event that is particularly interesting as landscape architects and designers are invited to make gardens based on philosophy (the subject of which changes each year). These gardens are not short-term snapshots, for they develop over the course of months (during which time they are maintained in part by students from the Conservatoire at Chaumont-sur-Loire).

The subject of the year that I visited (2005) was 'Chaos', a quality that is communicated by the giant stumpery that was installed that year. Stumperies were a Victorian garden fashion invention in which left-over stumps were assembled to create odd structures (that I suspect are highly unlikely to feature in any gardens that we make).

For me, the most interesting garden within the festival was one that incorporated a good deal of recycled materials within its construction, such as the eccentric figures set within the garden in the image above and below left, which were made out of cans.

Cans, brick fragments and other objects were also set within the concrete walls that separated the garden from the main thoroughfare. These were laid in a fairly rough, ad hoc fashion, but gave the wall an interesting, textured appearance.

Pipes were laid within gravel to form part of the entry path (shown in the image below) as well as a false path (as seen in the photograph above) and the main space of the courtyard.

When one entered the main courtyard, large figures (constructed from metal drums) dominated the space. These fantastical characters look like invented creatures from the mind of an animator; a couple of which seemed to me to appear like 'frog people', with another more akin to a 3-year old's drawing of a rabbit.

Another garden that caught my attention was more founded in a real tradition than the world of the imagination. It was based on the tradition of hedge-laying, which is a skilled practice most heavily associated with the United Kingdom (although also practised elsewhere).

In this craft, the stems of individual shrubs/trees within a hedgerow are partially cut and laid at angles, thereby thickening the structure of the hedge.

There were many other interesting gardens, including one in which all of the objects were scaled up to give the viewer the sense of being a small child again. However, the last one to be shown within this journal entry is 'Tohuwabohu'; a raw, visceral space which was designed to feel primordial in nature.