Country: The gardener as exhibitionist

Tony Heywood's latest creation really is a work of art - which is why it's in a gallery.

NO SOONER have the show gardens of the Chelsea Flower Show disappeared from south-west London than a different kind of garden has sprouted, this time in a gallery in Whitechapel, in London's East End. Mulch is described as an installation; not something most of us would try to copy in our own backyards, it aims to explore what a garden really is.

My first reaction was, if this is a garden, where are the plants? There is certainly lawn, which is an odd sight as you look in from outside. Three large glass tanks, suitable for fish, have been set down on the lawn; they are surrounded by volcanic pebble, giving an oriental effect. Set into the lawn near the door, for anyone visiting the exhibition to walk on, is a flat glass tank or press, painted on the surface, like the other tanks and frames on the walls.

All these glass shapes have been filled with a mixture of organic and inorganic objects: compost with seeds in, ferns, orchids, two halves of a banana that will turn to mould, feathers. A rabbit's head signifies the wildness of a garden, and wigs represent human growth. As the exhibition continues seeds will put out roots and shoots and plants will push against the glass sides. When they are too big for the large tanks they will be moved to the glass press and people will walk on them and compress them.

All this is designed by Tony Heywood to explore his belief that creating a garden is a process, not something instantaneous - despite what television shows might have us believe. He feels that the idea that a garden is little more than exterior wallpaper is a travesty: a garden is not an object, but an experience, something out of the control of the person who created it.

Heywood believes most forms of art have become too passive, and this exhibition is his attempt to show that an aesthetic experience can also involve participation. But he is clearly interested in providing a hands- on experience as much as he is in talking about his art. When he is not involved in the gallery world, Tony Heywood is also head gardener for the Hyde Park Estate. Ask him whether he is artist or gardener first, and he finds it difficult to separate the two.

Mulch is an extreme example of what Heywood has been attempting since 1984, when he took over his present duties. He has no responsibility for Hyde Park itself but cares for the squares and roof gardens of a triangle of land to the north, owned by the Church Commissioners. Some parts of the estate are more conservative than others: the residents of Hyde Park Square turned down snail-shaped sculptures to be hung in their trees. Heywood admits that there are murmurings that he spends too much time being creative and not enough cutting the grass!

The glass press he is using in his exhibition has given rise to another controversial idea; he would like to see the container used to keep the ashes of a loved one, which could be sprinkled among stones, mosses and other plant material; personal possessions could be put in, too. This combines the ideas of life, death and regeneration that Tony Heywood feels are so vital to any garden, even one in a gallery.

Mulch is at the Fordham Gallery, 20 Fordham Street, London E1 from today until 25 June. Opening hours: noon-7pm Monday-Friday, 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living