Just one small part of a large RHS complex, the cool garden is almost a denial of all that is generally understood in gardens. There are few colours, all muted. Water is perhaps the one horticultural constant, employed in a variety of ways, all in motion. Not the ‘five miles’ of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” but round most certainly within a circular wall of local stone, it top layer on edge. The water flows from chutes, in one case across cobbles slightly proud of their setting so that it ripples like a mountain stream, then over a smooth bed of the same cobbles in an easy flow.
There is a similar wall, built as an art intervention in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, but this one serves as any other, surrounding the plants it enhances, or do they enhance it? From outside the enclosure shrubs make their presence known within a context of the slope and trees beyond. Inside, they blend in tone and shape with one another.
The cool garden is not new here, but the way it has been reimagined is splendidly so. Nothing is for show, as a Chelsea gold medallist might have been tempted to offer. It is a concept certainly, but in the service of a seasonal cycle. A visitor is tempted to reflect, to reminisce perhaps, and above all to be calm. In the current situation, whether economic or political, we all have need of a moment’s calm. Even during a relaxing day among the many delights of an RHS garden such an opportunity is to be treasured.