Sunday, 9 September 2012

Interview with Naomi Slade - Punk Garden Designer*

'Never Mind The Hollyhocks' Award Winning punk-themed conceptual garden by Naomi Slade

Why a punk garden?
Why not?! I had never seen one and it seemed like a good idea.

And was it a good idea?
Yes. Very. It turned out looking exactly like the picture in my head. And, (as I believe I have mentioned) I won a Gold Medal and Best Garden In Show.
And people kept going past quoting Sex Pistols lyrics, which amused me enormously.
So much for a decent upbringing!

You describe yourself as a career conceptualist. Will you help me with my career?
I find I have iterated concepts, often quite abstract ones, throughout my own career. In a ‘can’t really help myself’ sort of way. I see no sign of this stopping, although it is fairly under control.

Are you mad?
Quite possibly, but modestly entertaining , I hope.

So why The National Gardening Show?
I designed the garden as a conceptual garden for RHS Hampton Court, but I didn’t submit it for 2012 because I knew I was going to be unavoidably busy in July. So when invited to be one of Jo Thompson’s Bright Green Shoots, showcasing new talent and being generally shiny, I decided to take the opportunity.

Could it not have waited until 2013?
Not really.
The cops took the threat of anarchy seriously and parked
opposite for the whole weekend...

Firstly there is the context – the 35 years since the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, the same year that punk exploded in the UK and the Sex Pistols had their version of ‘God Save the Queen’ banned; plus the social and political parallels, striking, unemployment, general unrest, union-flag waving bonanza and so on.
Secondly it is about managing the inside of my head. It would have looked (to me, at least) a bit like I had had a good, zeitgeist-hitting, idea and failed to catch the wave. I also would have got bored and lost interest, yet it would have lurked in the back of my mind for decades going ‘remember me? I’m a great concept and you just didn’t get it together....’
Thirdly it was about capacity testing. I have done lots of shows before and won three RHS Chelsea Silver-Gilt medals for Science and Educational stands, but I had not single-handedly done a show garden. And now I know I can.

Have you learned anything?
Yes. That No More Nails and carpet adhesive are a useful part of a garden designer’s toolkit and that parents and inlaws are invaluable.
Naomi also learned that garden design is incredibly glamorous when it is raining...

Was it expensive?
Depends how you calculate it and where your reference points are. In terms of staging a similar exhibit at RHS Chelsea, or creating the garden as a permanent installation, no.**
In terms of favours called, fuel burned, sleep lost, hours spent and the 2000 miles or so I drove to get everything there and back again, then it was reasonably expensive.

Who was your contractor
My what? I was me and my husband wot done it.

My sister and I created the punk sculpture which clashed
fabulously with penstemon 'Just Jayne' and 'Plum Jerkum'
Where did you get your plants?
Many were supplied by Hillier and Suttons very kindly sent me some too. I must also thank the NGS garden openers Nick Priestland for mega-gunnera and Richard Sandford for organic punk veg and chillies.
Lots and lots of people also thanks to Carol, Pete, Michelle, Sukey, Chris, Chris, Marilyn, Roger, Morwenna, Jenny and show neighbours,  the lovely Common FarmFlowers, for coffee and chat before during and after.

What are you going to do with your ‘Punk Gardeners Rock Forever’ poster?
I am going to put it on the wall in the dining room.

The judges were very complementary; do you want to be a garden designer?
Should the opportunity arise, it would be rather nice to design some gardens.***
What did you get out of it?
An enormous sense of achievement and the confidence and knowledge that if I want to, need to or have to do it again I can. And that particular bright idea laid to rest.
I mean did you win anything?
Oh. I got a couple of lovely certificates – one for winning Gold and one for Best in Show. And a cut glass rose bowl for Best in Show. But untold riches, gold bullion, foreign holidays, or my own bodyweight in spring bulbs, sadly not.
So will you do it again?
This interview is out of time.

For a transatlantic take on these jinks, check out the Studio G blog here.

*Designer of a punk garden (on this occasion) rather than necessarily a designer who is punk, although I admit I dabble from time to time and it has a lot to do with state of mind.  NB please ignore the whole dual personality thing. A girl’s psychopathology is her own business.
**Mostly because I borrowed or already owned most of the stuff I used. Paint is pricy, though.
***If you actually want me to design something you know where I am.