Gardens | The Reconnoisseur

The totem pole moves into the English garden

It’s uplifting, calming – and kids love to dance around it

The totem pole moves into the English garden

July 04 2010
Catherine Moye

The phrase “totem pole” generally conjures thoughts of Native Americans in headdresses dancing and whooping prior to a bit of argy-bargy with the 7th Cavalry. Now, however, it looks set to conquer the more bijou world of suburban gardens. At the charity plant sale that my brother and sister-in-law held in the garden of their London home, a totem pole by artist Malcolm Temple attracted most attention from the 300 or so green-fingered attendees.

The striking 9ft wooden pole (pictured) is carved with a design depicting a river under a full moon, and it is an uplifting and calming addition to the garden. As upright and striking as the surrounding trees and just as natural, it will mature over the years into its surroundings and reflect the mood in the different seasons. Plus, the kids like to dance around it making woo-woo noises. And it makes a welcome change from the water features that crop up with tedious predictability in middle-class gardens.

Temple originally studied stage design, then went on to study sculpture at Central St Martins. One of his earlier totem poles, this time cast from bronze, can be found near the Grand Union Canal in Islington, north London, at the head of the Wenlock basin. Perhaps the success of his more recent foray into garden totem poles is due to the fact that Temple is himself an avid gardener and a well-known garden designer. Indeed his own west London garden is open to the public annually as part of the UK’s National Garden Scheme. This year it takes place on Sunday July 18 from 2pm-6pm; 69 Mill Hill Road, London W3.

Malcolm Temple’s Totem poles cost from £2,000 upwards, depending on materials and size.