The Wasteland Garden

Did Kate Gould have T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in mind when she named her show garden The Wasteland Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last week?  She also blogs about gardens for The Guardian.  So, yes, probably.

I studied English literature at university, so I was drawn to Kate Gould’s vision of an urban garden.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

excerpt from “The Waste Land” (1922), T.S. Eliot



Considered one of the most important poems of the 20th century, The Waste Land references the decline of Western civilization (and this was BEFORE Meet the Kardashians hit our TV screens).

Eliot’s dystopian poem is about the ugliness of modern life, both literal and figurative.  The lilacs, however, are a symbol of hope for the future.

Kate Gould has created The Wasteland Garden with similar themes – the ugliness of pollution and the creation of a place of beauty.  Inspired by the designer’s own experiences, The Wasteland Garden is set in a disused water pumping works site.

wasteland main

The garden upcycles some of the detritis from the disused industrial site, such as the corrugated steel panels and old timber.

recycled steel

The garden feels secluded and peaceful.  There are places to explore and to sit and relax.  The planting is low-maintenance and softens the hardscape.

The Wasteland Garden, RHS Chelsea 2013,

The Wasteland Garden, RHS Chelsea 2013,

The Wasteland Garden, RHS Chelsea 2013,

The Wasteland Garden, RHS Chelsea 2013,

Similar to the Grand Designs Show Gardens, this garden incorporates a living wall.


The Wasteland garden is another gold medal winner. Unlike the other garden I discussed though (the Brewin Dolphin Garden), the Wasteland is a communal public space.


It addresses the issue of disused land in urban areas which do not need to be left as areas of blight but instead can become havens for wildlife and people.  In rundown areas, an urban oasis is a welcome visual respite.


The Wasteland Garden encompasses both the decline of an industrial past and the hope of regeneration.  I wonder what T.S. Eliot would think – overall, he was pretty gloomy about the future of Western civilisation.  Assuming you don’t have a tortured artist’s soul, what do you think?

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