Tip of the Iceberg

Conceptual Garden, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2013, Stand No: IN/247

n a first for Hampton Court, and possibly the world, an iceberg is created as a garden. A re-imagination of the humble fridge: repurposed as a building block, recycled as a planter, refridgeration perfected, definitely not refuse. Reflected in a surrounding glass sea and filled with colourful alpines it is a beacon of hope within our resource constrained world.

The Garden:
A 3m high crystalline formation of 36 ‘end-of-life’ fridges donated by Zanussi, sees a strong central structure whose edges collapse, revealing open fridges planted as a ‘green-tinged jewel boxes’ with alpines representing different habitats. Salad drawers and ‘growlers’ appear to float in the raked ‘sea’ of glass crystals that surround the Tip of the Iceberg.

The original realisation was that a fridge could be a ‘building block’ and, as the fridges’ icy, crystalline character was recognised, the idea of creating a ‘fridge mountain’ to comment positively on nuances generated by the structure, began to form. Shaped by John’s interest in the gravel gardens of Japanese temples - pioneers of conceptual gardening, and by Caroline’s love of plants’ colonising abilities and resilience, Tip of the Iceberg is a comment on the potential we have to make good from our piles of waste if we can think ‘outside the fridge’. As an ironic twist, none of the plants within the garden have been chilled or heated to ensure flowering for the Show!

Keen from the very start of the project’s acceptance, Zanussi have been crucial in Tip of the Iceberg realisation, gladly answering our request for numerous styles and sizes of fridges and freezers.

Zanussi is part of the Electrolux Group which places strong emphasis on integrating sustainable priorities across all aspects of its business. Electrolux is ranked among the World’s leaders in sustainability and is sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Its range of cooling products are extremely energy efficient with every model rated either A+ or A++ for energy efficiency. As well as smart money saving, this is good for the environment, as over 70% of the environmental impact happens while the fridge is in use.

Build challenges:
How to impale fridges at odd angles? How to support the entire structure – safely? How to allow clear view of the delicate plants? Just some of the thoughts that kept the build team up at night. All questions that have been answered throughout 6months of intensive build in a barn in Northamptonshire. Led by Caroline Tait with vital input from Neil Stittle, construction of the Iceberg began at the top. Each fridge selected, prepared and located on a steel spur, with the team developing an unmatched array of fridge butchering skills!

Planting inspiration:
The chilly theme immediately indicated alpines as our plants of choice. Campanulas offered essential blues to imitate flowing water whilst colourful, vibrant alpine flowers with their varied foliage textures and colours were imperative to bring a sense of joy and positivity to the garden. Low verdant mounds hug exposed slopes, tiny roots cling in crevices and vigorous opportunists take advantage of a chance to flower and set seed among the unstable cascades of scree. The structure’s mass countered by the plants’ delicacy – a play on scale against the repeating solid fridge forms.

Plants are evolved to thrive in particular natural habitats, as displayed within the Tip of the Iceberg, but they are also ever pushing to colonise new lands and space, capable of adapting and making good…even reclaimed fridges offer potential…the butler sinks of the modern day?

Plant suppliers:
The majority of plants within the display are unusual and rare forms not generally available. Most have been grown and nurtured by Angela Whiting at D’Arcy & Everest ( Alpine Campanulas were supplied by Sue Wooster of BellFlower Nursery ( from her National Collection, with remaining plants grown by AJ Plants (01933 419488) and by Caroline Tait (

After the Show
We are in discussions with a potential new home for the Tip of the Iceberg…watch this space!

Fridge Magnates
Caroline Tait Garden Design helps clients to create and cherish inspirational gardens they love and are proud of; gardens that exceed expectation, gardens you thrive in and gardens that embrace entertaining.

With particular expertise in producing and nurturing herbaceous perennials, gained over 20 years as nursery manager at Coton Manor Gardens, her work on a number of exhibits at Chelsea has brought medal winning success. Her sound understanding of plants and propagation allows Caroline to accurately and creatively select plants perfectly suited to your garden’s style. Caroline will share her Hampton Court experiences when teaching, lecturing and as she regularly guests on BBC Radio Northampton.

John Esling has pursued a range of careers. He worked in the travel industry, researched historic buildings and worked for many years as a teacher in a variety of settings. In 2005 he returned to study garden design at Otley College, Suffolk.

On completion he established Hedgery, and became a “hedge layer”. He uses the traditional country skills he has developed, not just in managing hedges but in designing and creating gardens.

Like Caroline, “Tip of the Iceberg” is his first toe into the world of show gardens. Unlike Caroline though, John has never even attended an RHS show before.

Download Plant List and Photos