Urban Gardener: Murder most florid

A small exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show this year, tucked quietly up in its north-west corner, was a landmark as far as show gardens are concerned. Entitled "More Questions Than Answers", the outline of a fallen figure in white roses with red petals for blood, questioned our obsession with Health and Safety laws, and the disparity between sending soldiers into conflict unprotected while not letting our children play conkers at school. Emotive, political, conceptual stuff, something the Royal Horticultural Society has been a bit nervous of in the past. The fact that Tony Smith managed to ensconce himself at an event that clearly didn't have a conceptual category suggests that they were beguiled by his triumph at Hampton Court last year where his garden "In Digestion" won Best in Show in the conceptual category. Needless to say it was a breath of fresh air – so Smith's exhibit this year at the Hampton Court Flower Show is eagerly awaited.

The conceptual category is a useful track for up-and-coming designers and artists to showcase their creative ideas. It also provides garden writers with either an infinite amount of rope to hang themselves with (trying to decipher what the gardens actually represent), or bags of material to draw inspiration from other than the usual, practical stuff (eg. telling readers when best to take softwood cuttings – which, by amazing coincidence, is now).

In last year's "In Digestion", Smith used four million lettuce seedlings to "explore the assimilation of both food and information in a decadent society". This year a mere million seedlings will help him express a very personal subject – bipolar disorder, a condition characterised by abnormal mood swings from mania to depression, and from which Smith suffers to a certain degree. The installation, as you might expect, is foreboding but quietly mesmerising. A 2.5-metre-high enclosure or "prison" is black but with the texture of an Aero. Peepholes allow glimpses of a large upturned box out of which a gloop of acid green (lettuce) oozes into a sea of unrolled Tarmacadam. "I'm fascinated by walls," said Smith as he showed me the finished enclosure waiting for its first lick of paint. "The explosion of colour from the lettuce, punctuated by coloured Perspex shards, is the ecstasy emerging from the gloom, accentuating the dramatic mood shifts that are characteristic of the condition. I want to touch on the complexity of bipolar disorder. There are many layers to it; the juxtaposition of materials is a way of expressing that."

Visitors will be kept a metre away on three sides of the enclosure, so tantalising views into "Ecstasy in a Very Black Box" will accentuate the frustration of not being able to really "see" the whole picture in one hit. Much hinges on the weather, whether the lettuce seedlings will germinate in time for judging, and Smith's having to carefully work around the growing element without damaging its tongue-like form. As I watched him entering his "prison" I wondered how the frustration of implementing the work, having to squeeze all 6' 6" of himself through an 85cm x 35cm hole every few minutes without pulling a hamstring could possibly be cathartic, but it seems it is.

If that isn't enough he also has an exhibit called "Star". Not a garden as such but a shrine-like arrangement of shiny new wheelbarrows with gold wheels around a central plinth on top of which is a pink wheelbarrow full to the brim with gold-sprayed coffee beans. This beacon of satirical comment focuses on the Western world's obsession with fashion, branding and conspicuous consumption. Of course you may have your own take on what it all means and Smith values the feedback. "The magic is that you create something and it takes on a life of its own," he says. "Like art, it opens a can of worms and everyone gets a worm."

www.tonysmithgallery.com. Hampton Court Flower Show starts Tuesday and runs until Sunday 13 July; visit www.rhs.org.uk/HamptonCourt/2008

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions