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The smart meter garden, a circular pond surrounded by leafy plants The smart meter garden with its centre filled with water

The meaning behind the garden

This is a garden where a perimeter of beautiful trees and stylised drifts of shade planting are visible. Abstract grassy mounds inspired by burial mounds symbolise generational use of, and responsibility for, the environment.

The smart meter garden

Visitors are invited to follow a winding path that leads to the centre of the garden. Here, benches face a large circular area of cracked black surface, in contrast to the vibrant, textural foliage that they have just passed. An engraving explains that by making changes now we can have an impact on the environment. Lights flash beneath the surface symbolising erratic energy use while mist seeps through the fissures symbolising CO2.

Slowly the surface floods with water, transforming the centre into a mirror. People are invited to reflect on our message: small actions, like planting a tree or getting a smart meter, will have a positive impact on the environment, as smart meters are essential building blocks of the smart energy system which will help enable us to transition to a lower carbon future.

Best in show

We're thrilled that the smart meter garden has been awarded a gold medal and a Tudor Rose for 'Best in Show' at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

Q&A with Matthew Childs

What are you trying to achieve with the installation?

It is important to me that my gardens have a strong message and touch emotions, this is key to the Smart Meter Garden. My installation gardens have often been my way of trying to make sense of complex issues in the world happening around me and the impact of climate change has been very much front of mind in recent years. Sometimes issues such as climate change can seem so large that individually we can feel helpless to make a difference. Bringing people together in this garden, setting out the problem in front of them, but allowing people to leave with a sense that if we all make small changes, collectively we can make a big difference is my aim for the garden.

What is the idea behind it?

The garden is inspired by a quote from philosopher and artist Rabindranath Tagore: 'The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life'. Planting trees and the benefit they have in terms of reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is our metaphor for getting a smart meter and how small individual changes can have a much wider reaching impact on the environment.

How will you create the structure?

It takes a very big team of very talented people to make my ideas a reality. I am in the very capable hands of Belderbos Landscapes our landscaping contractor who are leading the build. We then have Water Artisans, Moonlight Design and Surrey Iron Craft creating our centre piece of the garden; a dramatic 5 meter diameter water feature that will transform the atmosphere of the garden with magical effect (I hope!). Beautiful boulders are being supplied by CED stone and bespoke oak benches designed by Tom Raffield will weave in and out of the planting. Expect lots of contrasts from charred timber and black cracked surfaces against natural stone and wood. 

How do you hope people will react to your garden?

I'm hoping the garden will provoke a range of emotions from shock and concern to calm reflection and a sense of feeling empowered. Some people will love the contemporary, experimental style of the garden. Others may not, but the important thing is not whether people like the garden, but that it makes visitors think and opens a dialogue around the climate emergency. I want people to leave the garden feeling there are achievable things we can do to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

Why is it important for you to create this project?

As someone who loves gardens and the natural environment I am passionate about protecting it now and for future generations. This garden has been a wonderful opportunity for me to personally understand more about climate change, it's causes and get behind an initiative which I feel has the potential to make a really positive contribution towards helping the environment.

Why do you think people should get a smart meter?

I believe the issue of climate change is an emergency situation and we should all be doing whatever we can to help. Getting a smart meter to me feels like a very easy thing to do with the potential of making a tangible positive impact. I believe it can only be a good thing if we are individually better informed on how we use energy in our homes. I can also see how better informing the people who plan our energy resource would result in a more efficient supply which integrates more renewable sources of energy.

Matthew is an award winning British garden designer whose approach is to tailor gardens to each client and produce very human outdoor spaces which have a strong narrative, are a reflection of the people who use them and the surroundings in which they sit. Matthew is a keen gardener and passionate about nature. He hopes visitors to the smart meter garden will be left feeling there are small achievable things we can all do to help reduce CO2 emissions and that collectively we can make a positive contribution to the environment. Find his work at www.matthewchildsdesign.co.uk