Butterfly World near to St. Albans, is home to Future Gardens, a series of conceptual gardens which I visited at the weekend. The gardens themselves are great fun for kids as well as being thought-provoking and enjoyable to wander through – more so IMO than show gardens, which can only be viewed from one angle. They ‘re all the more interesting for being semi-permanent – staying for the whole season, so you see them differently depending on when you visit, in the same way as their predecessors at Westonbirt and the similar international gardens at Chaumont in France and Metis in Canada. A better description than I could give of the gardens can be seen in Cleve West’s “Independent" article, but my particular favourites were Nest , by Jane Hudson and Erik de Maeijer – a wonderfully meandering garden in such a small space, The Exoskeleton by Paul Dracott - loved the large timber frames towering over the planting, Nature’s Artistry Autumn’s Edge by Fiona Heron – unusual bullrush-type structures wave magically in the breeze, and the H Garden by Bruno Marmiroli – another meandering space, with a surprise orange structure which opens to reveal three stylised trees.
Butterfly World, by the way, is an ecological project worth keeping an eye on. The wildflower meadows are great to wander through, and the eclectic permanent gardens by Ivan Hicks are a joy. There is a small hot-house with exotic butterflies at present, but eventually the site will have a tropical dome – “the biggest butterfly walk-through exhibition in the world”. The cafe was pretty good (a tip on deterring wasps – the staff were burning coffee grounds in bowls to smoke them out), and there was a large plant sales area too, where I was pleased to see a display of the designer pots by a friend of mine – Jonathan Garratt.