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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas