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Mathematics Garden | Design Shows us The Beauty of Numbers

Mathematics Garden

Article by Maria Giovanna Drago – The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, by Nick Bailey, Chelsea, London, UK. The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden was a project by horticulturist Nick Bailey that was exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2016. It had a great success among the audience and judges for developing a side of nature that not everyone knows and that is certainly unexpected. There’s still so much talk about its main purpose: to show that nature is based on numbers. Not everyone knows that there are mathematical rules behind the number of petals on a flower or the arrangement of leaves on a plant. Bailey showed this dualism in a refined way, including signs and numbers easily recognizable, even by children.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show has been held each year since 1912 on the 11 acres of land of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London. It’s also known as the Great Spring Show, and it hosts an exposition of landscape gardens for five days. It attracts about 150,000 visitors from all over the world and is considered one of the most beautiful garden shows in the entire world. It is so popular that tickets must be purchased in advance because of limited capacity. The exhibition has become the ideal place to discover new gardening trends. Here, new plants are promoted and old ones can be admired in all their beauty.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Mathematics Garden

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, which was awarded one of eight silver gilt, was rectangular in shape and organized around a path that enveloped the symbol of infinity. It enclosed a first circle of greenery; a second circle was open, as the path split into two endings. One ending reached the short side of the rectangle and the other the adjacent long side. Visitors could access the garden from both ends. The garden rose from a base made of fine white earth, which was most visible in the corner between the two entrances where vegetation was sparse. As you ventured into the garden, the vegetation began to thicken and the white disappeared completely. Also, the routes stood out in their whiteness, as did the first circular space that you encountered as you entered.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

In this area, you could stop and sit on the bench that rose from the ground as a living plant. It had the shape of an arch made of two strips: the one for sitting was made of wood; the backrest was made of copper and was pierced with math formulas. After passing the first circular area, you reached the second circular space, where plants and shrubs grew in height and seemed to be organized to hide this part of the garden from prying eyes. Here, the path framed a circular water surface that overlooked a small circular arbor with a metal-bearing structure.
The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

You could reach the top of it by continuing from one of the paths that suddenly turned into a stairway and went up to reach the small terrace. The handrail of the stairway was the same as the copper backrest of the arch bench. It continued visually and ended as parapet of the terrace. Slender metal columns and wooden flooring and cover characterized the harbor. The floor was also decorated with a central circle that lit up at night. It was furnished with two director’s chairs and three stools, all in wood. Climbing plants hung from the wooden roof, and the parapet acted as curtains. The sculpture fountain near the entrance on the short side was also based on mathematics. Sculptor Giles Rayner created the a water-filled vase made of copper, whose proportional geometry followed the mathematical laws of nature.
The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

Why Mathematics?

Who among us does not get along with math? I suppose many of us feel that way. That is why the garden was such a huge success — it let people discover that math is beautiful in unexpected ways. “I’m terrible at maths,” Bailey admitted. Who would have ever imagined that natural beauty is based on mathematical rules? No one knows why, but plants grow and develop following precise mathematical laws. For example, the seeds of the sunflower head are arranged to form spirals according to the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 — which is known as the “Fibonacci numbers”.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

Also, the spirals of the leaves of the succulent spiral Aloe develop the same way. Both of these plants were in the garden, along with other significant plants, such as Ceratonia silique, whose seeds are always identical in weight. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks had already guessed something about proportions and numbers in nature, as they discovered about the Golden ratio or Divine proportion: Two quantities are in Golden ratio if the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities is equal to their ratio.
The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Golden ratio is approximately 1,61803. We can find this number in the human body, as the ratio of a person’s height to the height of his navel is roughly 1,61803. Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci made extensive studies during the Renaissance, and many historic artists and architects based their works on this proportion. Fibonacci discovered a sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, … and so on, where the next number is the sum of the previous two. Moreover, the ratio of two successive numbers is very close to the Golden ratio.
The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

Designers can use the sequence to draw such geometric figures as the golden rectangle and the spiral. In fact, Bailey designed the arched backrest according to that. All of these algorithms and mathematical equations were pierced on there, as well as on the handrail and the parapet, and all of them lit up in the evening, revealing an even more beautiful sequence that’s not so visible during the day.
The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Designer

Bailey is head gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, the oldest botanical garden of England, which covers four acres and contains about 5,000 plants. He is also a freelance garden writer and has 20 years of horticulturalist experience. He had visited the Chelsea Flower Show for the last 20 years, and finally had the opportunity to design a garden rather than just admiring them as a visitor. The Gardenlink service helped him realize the Mathematics Garden project, which took 14 months to complete. The multiple award-winning garden service has a team of 15 planter specialists, including three master gardeners from Japan.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

There are many unusual and unexpected ways to enrich the way we design landscapes, with new experiences and points of view. Do you believe there are aspects of our profession that remain unveiled and should be brought to light? Which other subjects, besides math, can be related to landscape architecture?

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The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, Photo courtesy of Nick Bailey

Full Project Credits For The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden:

Project Title: The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden Landscape Architecture: Nick Bailey Location: Chelsea, London, UK Client: The Chelsea Flower Show Scope: Gardening exhibition Completion: 2016 Recommended Reading:

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