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The spectacular designs of Manoj Malde

PUBLISHED: 12:04 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:04 22 August 2017

Manoj was inspired by both Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragan and his own ancestry

Manoj was inspired by both Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragan and his own ancestry

© Copyright Jonathan Buckley

From Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ to a kaleidoscope of hot colours, Manoj Malde’s spectacular design had plenty of spice, says Naomi Slade

The Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show is always pretty awesome, and while the big gardens are always worth seeing, I particularly look forward to the smaller gardens and less well-known designers, who often bring with them some of the most exciting ideas.

Eye-catching in more ways than one this year, was ‘Beneath a Mexican Sky’ a riot of vibrant colour and energy – and winner of a silver-gilt medal. Designed by Manoj Malde of Couture Gardens, it was inspired by Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragan, whose work was simultaneously minimalist, while also sumptuous in colour and texture often featuring flat walls of stucco, timber, or water in relationship with nature.

“I think subconsciously I always get attracted to colour,” says Manoj. “I have Indian ancestry and I was born in Kenya. As a child, I was surrounded by women in colourful saris, and of course the tribes of Kenya are also very colourful. Although he died in 1988, Barragan’s work was very contemporary and he is very influential on the modern world of architecture.”

The show garden comprised a generous courtyard with walls painted in Barragan’s signature colours of clementine, coral and cappuccino and a large, aquamarine pool providing a striking contrast. This is a worked example of why one shouldn’t be afraid to use colour in the garden. The bright walls provided a strong, clean foil to the planting that picked up the shades of orange and blue used in the hard-landscaping, but also added drama in its own right. The space, overall, is inviting and calm.

“My partner and I have a villa in Crete and gardening in the Mediterranean is completely different to the way we garden in the UK,” reveals Manoj, “We threw out our spade and fork and invested in a mattock and pick axe. Mediterranean plants have a really attractive vibrancy. The shapes, textures, sizes and growth of these plants are governed by their environment and this fascinates me.”

A riot of vibrant colour and energyA riot of vibrant colour and energy

Manoj merges his beloved Mediterranean style with country cottage planting, incorporating both drought-tolerant indigenous Mexican plants and those from southern Europe. He also introduces architectural Kalanchoe behariensis to the show for the first time. “I used to be a creative director in the fashion industry and I love its huge, almost heart-shaped velvety leaves. One cannot fail to be wowed by it!”

The garden is designed around two natural, mature multi-stem trees that provide structure. Agaves provide rhythm and softer drought tolerant herbaceous planting adds a sprinkle of beauty. The fabulous cacti and succulents are not just a simple nod to fashion, or the indulging of a personal interest, their struggle to survive harsh conditions also represents Barragan’s struggle during his career to become a recognised architect.

The garden was sponsored by Amersham-based Inland Homes, a brownfield housing developer which has won awards for landscaping on their sites, and for whom the sustainable water-saving design was particularly attractive. After the show, some of the plants will be used at a development, St John’s in Chelmsford. “One lucky home owner will have some of the plants directly from a Chelsea Flower Show garden!” says Manoj. “The plants include Cistus ‘Silver Pink’, Baptisia ‘Blueberry Sundae’, Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ and Eschscholzia californica to name but a few!”

“We pride ourselves on being environmentally friendly developers who are conscious of making the landscapes of all our projects as sustainable as possible,” explains Chief Executive Stephen Wicks. “Sponsoring the ‘Beneath a Mexican Sky’ garden at RHS Chelsea reflects our commitment to improving the environment in which we all live.”

couturegardens.co.uk | inlandhomes.co.uk

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