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Finding more than inspiration

A post from Garden Design students Simon Shave and Lara Kinsey who recently visited RHS Wisley.

It's February, cold and wet after a spell of unseasonable sunshine.

They met in the car park, unsure of what the day may hold, but yearning for insight, they chose RHS Wisely, a halfway garden, world renowned for its horticultural prowess. They wonder what they’ll find late winter.

They head to the entrance with a shared enthusiasm to find some inspiration and motivation.

Surprisingly the gardens and tearooms are full of faces. “It must be pension discount day” Simon says, “We are so young!!” Lara replies. He gives her a wink which affirms an inkling that they will have a fun day.

Making a winter garden visit goes against Lara’s instinct to bask in the beauty of plants. It’s not about the colours, forms and textures today, as a gardener and painter she is curious as for what to look for. Today It’s about the bones of the garden, the structures, its essence or ‘genius loci’. Simon is a hard lansdcaper- he leads the way.

“This is hogging” he says, kicking his toes into the pathway. The stuff he told her about when she called to talk about sustainable materials for a project. Taking mental notes, she inquisitively digs her toes in, Filing away the feel of it into memory.

They traverse the paths, almost as though floating on a tide, taking them where they should go. A large sculpture of a horse's head demands a pause and they watch a suited man hop a boundary to get up closer. He wears a pocket square and shiny shoes and they decide he must be a ‘Mr Tintagel’ and that the sculpture resembles a very big bottom!

They pass a couple on a bench, side by side with heads touching. His eyes are closed, she's watching ducks on an island and he says something to make her laugh. From across the pond their reflections reveal 4 people. In a world of their own, unaware of the young child and mother pointing at the ducks behind them.

Heading for the arboretum over undulating grounds, pace changes for flow or steps, and stops at various points. Hellebores and snowdrops sway their heads in the breeze; tightly coiled fronds of fresh ferns prepare to unfurl. Bare trees striking various poses are in bud with a promise of a grand finale around the prologue of bursting Camellia blooms. They marvel at the waterfall and rockery plantings, ancient Bonsai and giant hares; and finish their day under the enormous leaves of banana plants, juxtaposed with the jagged frames of Fatsias and the delicate baubles of tiny succulents. As they leave, they notice the same couple are embraced in a loving goodbye, she’s laughing into his neck so sweetly, Waves of old people pass by. That’ll be us one day.

Homeward bound they ponder the experiences of all of today’s visitors. How the gardens served them all. Fed their imagination. Gave people a place to gather, explore, embrace, discover, find intrigue, move and collaborate as students, artists and designers.

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