Horticulture - only for the elderly? Young Garden Designer of the Year finalist, Max Harriman doesn't think so! Find out why he swapped the drinks tray for the drawing board and why he is on a quest to help us all find 'Calm in Chaos'.
A career in horticulture was never really seen as an option to me when I was growing up. Even though I grew up with a passion for it; spending ever spare minute I had in my vegetable plot and greenhouse. I just never saw, or was told, that it could translate into a worthwhile, rewarding and exciting profession.
My name is Max, I’m 26 and I live in London. I have always had a love for the natural world, particularly for plants and their cultivation. Recently I swapped the drinks tray for the drawing board and completely changed my career path. I used to manage bars and restaurants, but two years ago I took the plunge and pursued my dream vocation in garden design undertaking a yearlong diploma course at the London College of Garden Design.
Next month I will start on the biggest challenge of my career to date. In March I was selected as one of five finalists for the Young Garden Designer of the Year competition, which runs at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Tatton Park Flower Show. At the beginning of July, I shall start building the show garden for the competition. A show garden is a temporary garden that is open to the public and endeavours to showcase the latest trends in garden design, materials and construction.
This year, the competition’s theme was ‘Feel Good’ gardens; spaces that highlight the benefits that plants and gardening have on our health and wellbeing. I chose to design my garden to emphasise the importance of Green Space in the urban environment, particularly when considering mental health. ‘Mental health’ is the buzzword of the moment, and for good reason. In the UK, one in four of us will suffer a diagnosable mental health issue every year. This figure unsurprisingly is accentuated for those of us who live in the built-up concrete jungles of our cities.
The show garden, ‘Calm in Chaos’, aims to offer an escape for visitors; transporting them from the urban context to a place that feels far removed from the cityscape and resembles something similar to a woodland trail. A meandering path was used to increase the feeling of scale and to make the most of the size of the garden. Visitors are encouraged to enter and explore the space using a series of timber posts that obscure and alter views in and through the garden. A bench, central to the garden, offers guests a place to sit and reap the benefits of being surrounded by greenery. The whole design is focused upon increasing the time guests spend in the garden to maximise the available restorative benefits.
Urban life can be stressful. To most, it is overpopulated, noisy and polluted – not good for our mental health. One issue with mental health disorders can be overthinking. ‘Calm in Chaos’ offers a number of soft fascinations to distract visitors from their urban stresses. Soft fascinations are small things, often occurring in the natural world that can hold our attention with little or no effort on our part. Such as watching waves crash onto a beach, or the sound of leaves blowing in a tree. The planting in my show garden aims to offer such distractions relying on a multitude of leaf form, shapes and textures to stimulate the guest’s attention. The garden also includes a reflective water bowl, to incite our well known childlike fascination with water: something that also possesses restorative and calming qualities.
Gardening, time and time again, has been proven to have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. Plants and horticulture make people happy. The horticultural and landscaping industry is also an incredibly exciting and diverse place to find a rewarding career – its not just for old people! Like gardening? Why not make it your career? There is truly something for everyone.
The RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year competition runs for its tenth year at Tatton Park Flower Show from the 18th to the 22nd of July. Groundwork has kindly supported the garden through sponsorship and sourcing volunteers to help with planting, for which I am incredibly grateful. Excitingly, the show garden will be relocated to Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge, as a permanent feature to be enjoyed by patients and friends and families of patients alike.
Guest post by Max Harriman - a Garden Designer hailing from London and a Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Young Garden Designer of the Year competition finalist. Max’s show garden, ‘Calm in Chaos’, is sponsored by Groundwork and supported by Groundwork volunteers.
The RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year competition runs for its tenth year at Tatton Park Flower Show from the 18th to the 22nd of July 2018.