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Forget Quaint . . . Book Captures English Gardens' Edgy Essence

March 05, 2000|From Washington Post

The English garden's image is of honeyed Cotswold stone framed by cherry-red climbing roses.

But icons change. Although Britain's National Trust may have done a great job of preserving the quaintest of these models for tourists, the private designed space today is more edgy.

The English fascination with plants and preoccupation with garden crafts both yield to an idea of the garden as sculpture. The work of the current cohort of British designers is captured by one of their own, Sally Court, in the new book "The Modern Garden Makers" (Cassell/Sterling, $34.95).

Court reveals a world where uninhibited and fanciful designs are the norm, but some of the featured works are less far-out--Dan Pearson's subdued treatment of the grounds of Princess Diana's lake mausoleum, for instance.

Bonita Bulaitis uses gravel, spiky plants and curving screened walls in ways reminiscent of avant-garde designs in the American Southwest, except the walls have stained glass set into them, illuminated at night. The gardens of Christopher Bradley-Hole are stark and modern with powerful interplays of mass and void.

The prize for the weirdest, though, must go to garden designer Cleve West and sculptor Johnny Woodford, whose commissions included a garden where a pair of wooden blocks open like clamshells to become seats, and in Woodford's garden in which chains form patterned mulch in a bed of real plants (phormiums) and phony ones (augers).

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