The land now known as the Storey Gardens is recorded as being used for gardens and orchards as far back as the 1600s. As the Millennium approached a permanent environmental artwork, The Tasting Garden, was created to celebrate the history and abundance of this garden.
The internationally-renowned artist, Mark Dion – whose work explores ideas about natural history and the conflicting ideas that we have about nature – was commissioned to create a long-term, living landscape. Dion has exhibited work at many important international venues including Tate Gallery, London and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Tasting Garden is an orchard and an artwork, with paths laid out in the form of the branches of a tree, paying tribute to the memory of forgotten growers and the fruit species they cultivated.
At the end of each pathway trees have been planted alongside a sculpture of their particular fruit. Many of the trees chosen for The Tasting Garden are rare or endangered varieties, threatened by the shift in farming methods and consumer demands. Extinct varieties are marked by memorial stones.
In one corner is The Arboriculturist’s Workshed, a small folly and monument to the achievements and skills, in both physical labour and intellect, of the dedicated men and women who slowly and carefully bred the diversity of fruit varieties represented in the gardens, over many generations.
The visitor is invited to study the undisturbed contents of the building and contemplate the relics of husbandry: to observe the past and ask themselves questions about the future. It is an environmental museum, a cultural space to inspire a fantasy, a garden to excite the senses and a tranquil place of contemplation.
Now that Lancaster Castle is reopened to the public, the area around the Storey attracts more tourists and local residents than ever before. It is a good time to reflect on the benefits to the city of housing an artwork by a major international artist.