The Process and Building
The journey which is ‘Akira’ begins by leading you through the design via a zen gravel pathway, similar to ones in gardens of the orient. A specimen Niwaki tree stands at the centre of the design and is the main feature whether viewed from inside or on the bench in the garden.
Other trees include: Pinus Mugo ‘Carsten Gold’ to the right, (also cloud pruned) and reminiscent of a hand reaching in and pulling you into the garden. It has a lovely yellow colour in Winter which would be just turning green for the show.
There were also three acers which might seem excessive, but they are all small trees and slow growing, each with different colours and textures. The Acer on the left: PalmatumDissectum ‘Inaba Shidare’ with its great reddish weeping habit, is so perfectly situated by the bench, so as you pass by, its shape encourages one to sit and contemplate.
I included a couple more evergreens to compliment the Niwaki and Pinus, but also to balance the overall space. They were Sciadopitys Verticcilata ‘Sternschnuppe’ and Cryptomeria Japonica ‘Globosa Nana’. The rest of the planting was very soft, with grasses, Hostas and ferns dominating.
The black Mondo grass ‘Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrescens’ brought a black essence from the walls and seating into the planting.
A round moon-gate window with red recess was set into the wall past the bench and provided extra illumination. The colour was picked up on the red stemmed Hosta ‘Red October’, the red stemmed fern Polystichum polyblepharum, and the ‘Inaba Shidare’.
‘Akira’ was a shipping container garden so there was a building to design which I decided had to be based on a Japanese tea house and therefore this needed to be kept simple in line with its traditional design. Inside we had authentic tatami material on the floor which picked up on the off-white colour between the black beams of the outside walls. The black stripes between the mats mirrored the black lines of the garden perfectly.
An original black tea table and ‘Zabuton’ or tea house cushions were complimented by a traditional Japanese tea set and green tea stirrer.
One wall was completely covered with a photo of an Acer in a garden giving the impression of a window and making the space feel larger than it was. ‘Geta’ or geisha shoes were left outside and pointing away from the building in the traditional manner. Set dressing, drama and theatre also play an important part of scene setting with the design needing to appear “lived in”, hence the shoes and teapot etc.
‘Aiming for that all important gold medal’ comes down to a combination of design, originality, build quality and quality/health of plants…most notably is the brief! A lot of designers, with truly brilliant designs, fail to get ‘gold’ by simply overcomplicating the brief and including too many exact facts; consequently, my brief for Akira was kept simple and vague see (Part 2).