Take a stroll down London’s Leake Street, SE1 soon, and discover this unique, temporary garden quietly growing in corner of The Vaults, a newly reopened Victorian passageway that is part of the Old Vic Tunnels that run beneath Waterloo Station.
For a flavour of what you will find, click through this gallery and look at these stunning images taken for Homes & Gardens by photographer Jeremy Nelson.
Created by horticultural installation artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie for Cityscapes 2012, the garden, named The Majesty, is the artists’ interpretation of a stretch of Dorset coast that, over the next few months, will metamorphose into a subterranean fantasy as the living fungi embedded in it take over.
From the moment you enter the Old Vic Tunnels, you are in another world, one that strikes all the senses at once: graffiti art, low-level lighting, strange echoes and the heart-thumbing beat of music, all fragranced by the moody odours of an urban environment that has been shut away for years.
With your mood suitably prepared, step into The Vault and breathe.
Fragrances experience created and provided by Penhaligon’s photographer, Jeremy Nelson
A kaleidoscope of coloured lights constantly illuminate the garden, each dramatic hue picking out something new for your eye to catch: lichen-covered trees, their branches casting violent shadows on the brick roof and walls; vast recumbent forms – are they bodies? – swirls of wool like seahorses cresting on a wave; and rainwater pooling at its edges.
Over the course of the garden’s existence, these lichen-encrusted pine trees and twisted branches, which came from the National Trust’s seaside property, Formby, will be smothered in living fungi, grown by the artists in a glasshouse behind you.
“Combining the aesthetics of beauty and decay, The Majesty is a glorious celebration of the sublime landscape experience for the digital age,” says Tony Heywood.
Writhing in amongst the trees and wool ‘seahorses’ lie jewel-encrusted forms. Are they meant to be the landmass, or people resting in the landscape, or are they something more sinister? You decide.
Adjust your eyes and take in the shape of a small building lit from the inside by the flickering of a mass of candlelight. Walk closer…
Glasshouse by Hartley Botanic
A mass of black-painted straw and aloes succumb to the spores of fungi. Soon they will be large enough to be transplanted onto The Majesty and her decay will begin, taking her into another form.
It is a landscape that TS Eliot would recognise and understand; read his poem The Wasteland (1922) before and after your visit to heighten your own experience of this incredible garden.
To experience The Majesty in all its glory, plan your visits (revisit to see how it changes) now. The garden is open on specific days and at certain times until 8th July, before it closes while the Olympics is on; it will reopen for a month in September. For full details, click here