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Bangladeshi Allotment - making the allotment

Hampton Court Palace - the show garden site and context


The Bangladeshi Allotment is sited facing the elaborate baroque palace gates to the deer park (on a diagonal axis from the north facade). On the other axis, Wren placed the canal to create a monumental landscape with infinite vista to rival Louis XIV's Versailles (on which Wren modelled Hampton Court).

Our simple sustainable show allotment made of sticks and string confronts the unsustainable guilded imperial opulence of the Baroque Palace which (following similar squandering of resources around the world, over the centuries) has as its legacy the tragedy of our global decline

Laugier's Hut - man's first house - inspired by Rouseau - with show garden sign


The illustration shows the 'primitive hut' which was the iconic frontispiece of 'Essay on Architecture' 1752 by Marc Antoine Laugier who was Abbe at Versaille prior to the French Revolution and respected by the French King. But the design principles enshrined within his 'hut' were a condemnation of vulgar baroque ostentation at Versailles.  
The 'hut' (which we use as a Bangladeshi doogie house) is our emblem against the commercial vulgarity of much show design and against the greed of large-scale landscaping (flowing from Versaille) which has displaced small-scale horticulture (as at the 2012 Olympic Park where 1000 idyllic allotments have been destroyed). 

On our show sign we quote Rousseau (Laugier's mentor) 
"our souls have become corrupt … as our sciences and arts have advanced towards perfection
Jean-Jacques Rousseau  (Discourse on the Arts and Sciences - pub 1750)
Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor illis

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (misquoting Ovid - epigraph to Discourse on the Arts and Sciences) Trans:- I am taken for a barbarian here because they don’t understand me" 

Show garden illustration by Malcom Fowler (click on drawing to enlarge)


The show garden presents iconic western design stereotypes configured as a magical container for the exotic horticulture of the diaspora in the spirit of the original potagers at Versailles and Hamton Court Palace.
The allotment is a simple cubic potager based on a traditional geometric quadrille. Inside the magical space we recreate Laugier's 'enlightened' picturesque view via a replica of his 'hut' in living willow (converted into a Bangladeshi doogie house). The enclosing structures of the potager consists of foraged hazel corner frames supporting tropical gourds with  screens supporting beans made of two rows of foraged bamboo canes. The edging conforms to Laugier's two-colour parterre edging principles, consisting of amaranth (doogie) and coriander. Next to the 'hut' is a parterre of alternate beds of coriander and Indian brown mustard.
Inside the potager a perimeter path enables a 'derive' through the garden's juxtapositions and (anti-clockwise) terminates ironically in a Euclidean junk heap 

Potager du Roi at Versailles


The layout of our Bangladeshi Allotment is based on the Potager du Roi at Versailles by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, In 1678 he created the first scientific horticultural garden for Louis XIV on a 25 acre plot. Exotic fruit and vegetables from all over the world were grown within the potager.
In 1698 Queen Mary created the (recently restored) Orangery Garden at Hampton Court Palace for a similar purpose.
The potager and our allotment are based on a quadrille - four squares of four squares - though we have displaced one of the quaters to create a picturesque view of Laugier's Hut.
This geometry is inherited from the medaeival apothecaries garden but is here transformed into a rational container for horticultural experiments on newly discovered marvels of the vegetable kingdom.
Similarly our quadrille of humble sticks frames our experiments in tropical vegetable growing

Final design sign-off drawing (click on drawing to enlarge)


This drawing was the subject of considerable negotiation with the RHS judges to acheive design sign-off. They rejected our initial authentic Bangladeshi allotment proposal saying it would not be of show quality. They objected to our high perimeter screening and narrow earth paths and requested no screens and wide hard (stone) paths. Eventually we compromised and agreed for design sign-off 2metre high screens (of spaced thin bamboo with little vegetation) and 500mm wide leafmould paths. However, at the final judging, the judges ignored this previous path width agreement, saying that they could only award a silver medal because they were unanimous that the 500mm path was much too narrow (ignoring the very narrow paths of Bangladeshi allotments with crops filling every space). They were applying their wasteful design standards for English allotments in ignorance of Bangladeshi methods. We have therefore appealled against the award of only a silver medal

Working drawing (click on drawing to enlarge)


The construction objective was to minimize the impact of the building operations on the deer park site by prefabricating most of the garden using adapted 900mm square industrial palletes and placing them on top of the ground to form a 5400mm square enclosure within the mandatory 35m2 plot area to give a 1200mm clearance to the public path. We found that site uneveness necessitated the RHS removing turf (as occured on all the other plots).
The purple areas indicate the only holes that needed digging to sink plant containers and to plant the living willow tree trunks of the 'primitive hut'
The white path areas consisted of surplus earth from RHS spoil heap, topped with composted bark left-over from other gardens (onto which we raked oak-leaves).

February 2010 - Propagation of saved seed


Tropical serpent and bottle gourd seedlings on a London window sill.
The plants were germinated from saved seeds.
We started them and the beans very early in the year. In the final analysis we could have sown these seeds at the end of April. Some seeds however like bitter gourds, snake gourds and climbing spinach were very difficult to germinate so starting these early was essential.
As an insurance measure we asked Finchley Nurseries in Mill Hill London (who grow all their own vegetables) to sow a batch of serpent gourds for us. These proved invaluable to fill gaps in the planting to the gourd structures on the final day of the build.
We are very grateful to Finchley Nurseries for giving us this help.

March 2010 - Foraging bamboo


The perimeter screens consist of a double row of verical bamboo canes 1800mm high. We needed 100 canes with side branches.

In Bangladesh bamboo is obtained from the forest. The side branches are retained to add to increase support for the beans.
We were fortunate that we could do the same where invasive Pseudosasa Japonica needed controlling in a local woodland.

The photo shows bundles of prepared straight bamboo stems waiting to be loaded up for transport to London.

March 2010 - Prefabricated perimeter bean screens


The bamboo canes were stapled each side of 12 cut down industrial timber palettes at 225mm centres to create two rows 225mm apart.
A peatfree growbag was then fitted into the palettes.
Finally were then placed side by side within a make-shift cubic structure of old roofing battens on a small plot at the Adelaide Community Garden Club (ready for planting with beans and protecting with polythene against the cold weather).
As the beans began to twine up their canes, sheets of clear polythene were suspended from canes at the roof between each palette, to prevent the beans from wandering.
Eventually horizontals were tied across the top of the canes using garden string - the first knotting operation.

April 2010 - Perimeter screens and structures under polythene


The four corner gourd support structures, were constructed in the same way as the bean screens but with coppiced hazel branches, foraged from debris left over after highway work to country verges.
They were installed each side of the bean enclosure and covered in polythene.
Half the tropical gourd seedlings were planted in them at the beginning of May.
Initially these grew rapidly and even started flowering but sadly most perished in an unexpected frost in mid-May.
Some of the remaining gourds replaced the dead gourds, but we grew more than originally planned in our polytunnel as spares for planting at Hampton Court

22nd June 2010 - Build day 1 - Setting-out the plot


The photo shows Janie (with pick-axe) modelling safety boots and hi-viz following the precise pegging out of the garden's 900mm grid within the designated 35m2 show garden plot stripped of turf by the RHS.
This established the exact 5400mm square enclosure and the location of Laugier's living willow 'hut', the trunks of which would to be planted on Day 2 
The RHS's setting out was within 75mm of square which we corrected so our prefabricated palettes would fit together
Also on day 1 (following our setting out) the service team installed our £110 tap in specified position (so it would drip into our water tank). Sadly this was undrinkable grey water (given the heatwave and  expensive site refreshment facilities). 
Without it however our plants (together those of the adjacent show gardens) would have died.

23rd June 2010 - Build day 2 - Loading the living willow logs


Chris (of Positive Tree Care Oxford) and Juliette with their lorry loaded up with the living willow logs for Laugier's hut.Chris cut the logs in February as part of routine maintenace of Thames-side trees for the University.

Instead of chipping them, he left the logs with the most interesting shape and lichens in his depot in an Oxfordshire wood, with their feet standing in an old fibreglass fishpond full of mud.

Four months later and they are transformed into living willow - well rooted with luxuriant foliage

23rd June 2010- Build day 2 - Delivering the logs


The first delivery to Hampton Court
Sadly however, on the journey from Oxford, one hour after setting off, disaster had struck.

The police pulled us over to a weighbridge on the A34, and though they could find nothing wrong, they handed us over to the environment agency, who despite our protests, sprayed our willow logs with 'Smart Water' (saying they were waste and they didn't believe us about Hampton Court).

This caused half the foliage to turn black by the end of the day and was the worst start possible. We had been hoping that the living willow would steal the show and also to sell our replica Laugier's Hut as living-willow Neoclassical garden architecture. Its blackened state was very dissappointing.

23rd June 2010 - Build day 2 - Constructing Laugier's Hut


Chris standing next to Laugier's almost complete living willow 'Hut' 
We used a 1200mm square steel access platform as a template (which we removed when the Hut was rigid). This enabled us to improvise and experiment with the sculptural properties of different logs in different positions to match Laugiers illustration. This was particularly important as many of our best logs now had blackened foliage. 
We planted the big upright living willow rooted trunks in deep holes and braced them with horizontal logs at ground level. These logs would eventually be buried after we raised our path level with imported spoil as planned. Chris then made the joints rigid and the structure stable using nylon cored rope binding and cross ties. A skilled tree-surgeon and carpenter, specializing in circular strawbale houses, Chris then trimmed the logs into shape with his chain-saw.

24th June 2010 - Build day 3 - Delivering the perimeter screens and structures


We hired a delivery company to ship the plants that had been growing at the Community Garden to Hampton Court because the delivery needed to happen on a weekday (when volunteers were hard to get) in order to keep up to programme.
The first load consisted of the prefabricated perimeter structures and 12 strong 4metre long bamboo canes (phyllostachys aurea) kindly donated by Golders Hill Park from their trimmings. These canes were essential to rigidly link the tops of the bean screens at the sides and rear of the allotment.
We had planned to deliver the rest of the plants on Day 4 (the following day) but we deferred this till the following week because of the need to water them twice daily in the heatwave.
Packing of the delivery vans involved considerable negotiation - and for both vans we produced a drawing to demonstrate how to fit everything inside.

24th June 2010 - Build day 3 - Installing the perimeter screens and structures


George standing inside the enclosure of prefabricated perimeter screens and structure units (off the end of the lorry)

The diagonal trellissing on the hazel corner structures exactly matches Indian (woven bamboo) screens and at the same time makes them completely rigid.

After this we spent several days fitting the prefabricated units together precisely and binding them rigidly with garden string

25th June 2010 - Build day 4 - BBC filming at the Community Garden


We lost a whole day from the build programme while we filmed the background story to our show garden with the BBC at the Community Garden in London. The time such filming takes should not be under-estimated.

The heatwave also was increasing and everyone was suffering (with only fresh mangoes and delicious Bangladeshi jackfruit for refreshment!) 

Two further filming sessions occured at Hampton Court during the show week. One with an overhead panoramic camera (see RHS website). The other for an interview with Alys Fowler.
The complete half-hour feature was broadcast on BBC2 on Thursday 8th July. Many people reported that they had decided to visit Hampton Court specially to see our allotment after seeing the BBC film

29th June 2010 - Build day 8 - Installing the parterre and edging


The photo shows that by now the adjacent gardens were well advanced.
Our second lorry load of plants has been delivered and most of the holes for plant containers are dug.

The photo shows Chris and John digging a few more holes to sink plant pots prior to a dumper load of soil being delivered to make up the path level to match central 900mm square trays of coriander and mustard (supported on palettes)

Meanwhile the edging to the two sides and rear of the allotment is being installed using the old roofing battens (from the polythene frost protection) nailed together and pegged to the ground. The 125mm gap between edging and perimeter bean stucture was filled with old guttering sections containing coriander.

4th July 2010 - Build day 10 - Finished show garden (click on photo to enlarge)


The last build day was frantic. But everything was in its place by the time it got dark. We were greatly helped by several people including Pru from Declinature next door on the final evening.
The reason was that on the previous evening the Bangledeshi ladies at the Community Garden agreed to lend all their best amaranth for our edging. So hasty plant substitution took place involving the hire of another van at short notice.
The result was the beautiful amaranth border on the right of the photograph
The brick edging is salvaged from a skip following the unauthorised demolition of the Community Garden front wall by the Council
On the left, the rusty water tank containing a lotus is a personal memorial to the designer's father and the paths are topped with a mulch of oak leaves from his garden

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