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The Hidden Harmony in Nature

Designer Chris Beardshaw partners with 16-year-old composer Lauren Marshall to design Morgan Stanley's 2017 Chelsea Flower Show Garden.

A few years ago Chris Beardshaw found that a heavy metal blast of Black Sabbath sparks the biggest blooms, while some Bach creates the most blooms. Now Beardshaw, who is partnering with Morgan Stanley to design the firm's third Chelsea Flower Show garden, has engaged the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for his latest experiment — exploring the relationship between classical music and nature as he chooses the finer details of the garden's design.

Beardshaw will work with one of  NYO’s composers, 16-year-old Lauren Marshall, who recently won accolades for the performance in Birmingham of her symphony, “Suspended Between Earth and Air”. Marshall is now  immersing  herself in Beardshaw’s world of gardens and for them to create a garden and a musical piece that play off one another. 

Designer Chris Beardshaw and composer Lauren Marshall work on their collaboration.

“We’re both working to the theme of the hidden harmony in nature,” Beardshaw said. “We’re trying to use the music to paint an audible picture of the garden’s design and beauty, while the garden will signify how music and nature, as spontaneous and seemingly unplanned their creation might be, are based on patterns.”

For Beardshaw and the rest of the teenage musicians in the NYO, the collaboration validates the importance they’ve placed on including music in their lives and education. “Having opportunities like this is absolutely incredible for young people,” she says. “This is kind of what we yearn for.”

Beardshaw is looking forward to the music influencing what plants go where, when he stages the exhibition at Chelsea Flower Show. “We often consider nature to be chaotic,” Beardshaw said. “Yet for anyone who’s looked in detail at plant materials, a pattern becomes obvious. The same is the case for music – a composer is taking an infinite number of pitches and creates patterns of harmony and rhythm."

Vibrantly Colored Succulents

Fractals found in nature will be a theme that flows through the garden, beginning with bold geometric forms in the loggia — the open-walled building at the center of the garden. The planted area will contrast lush woodland and an arid environment of vibrantly colored succulents, giving visitors a sense of apparent randomness of nature evolving into design and order.

Marshall is still in the discovery phase: “I’m not yet sure yet how the piece for the garden will evolve, but doing this… it’s the most exciting thing that could happen to me, really.”

Like Morgan Stanley’s previous Chelsea Flower Show gardens  this year’s creation will have a life after Chelsea. It will be donated to Groundwork, a community charity who will redesign and repurpose the garden, through several different educational community schemes in London.

Read more about Morgan Stanley's Chelsea Flower Show Gardens.

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