DESIGN James Basson SPONSOR M&G Investments CONTRACTOR Crocus
"THIS GARDEN IS INSPIRED BY the principles of ecological sustainability, and is based on a disused quarry in Malta. Pretty much every house in Malta is made from these same limestone blocks, which are all of a uniform size. As the blocks are removed by quarrying, so the geological fault lines create these tall, dramatic pillars, and scarring is left behind on the rocks that remain, creating a texture that we’re using as a backdrop for the planting.
“I’m a huge fan of quarries; they have such natural majesty. I love the way nature moves in to a disused site to reclaim them. All the plants we’re using here are Maltese natives – we had to get special authorisation to export endemic species for the Chelsea garden and permission took ages.
“Our design makes the most of the quarry’s diverse ecology, for instance using cliff tops on top of the pillars and coastal plants around the pools. There are 200 species on our plant list, but the key ones are two specimen trees – Pistacia lentiscus and a large carob tree Seratonica silicone. We’ve also got wild fennel Ferula communis, Asphodeline fistulas, feathery yellow wode Cytisus scoparius, euphorbias and grasses including Hyparrhena hirta. Lots of yellows and greens.
“Usually a garden takes one year to research but this one took two. It’s been lovely top have the extra time to collect seeds and work with seed sown and grown on in France and Italy.
“The biggest stress comes from the worry that the stone won’t fit together at Chelsea and we won’t get the quarry finished in time. Luckily our quarry team have been excellent, working with contractor Crocus on the logistics of creating the pillars and walls.
“Originally the garden was done for the Telegraph, who gave us a complete cartye blanche in terms of the design. Then they pulled out of Chelsea for 2017 and we were very lucky to be working with Corcus on it ,because M&G approached Crocus luckily they dared to take it on – attracted by the environmental issues.
“We chose Malta because we love sailing and visit the island often. As it’s the most densely populated country in the world per square meter of landmass, it has to confront problems of water shortage and waste disposal that we’re all going to have to resolve at a planetary level at some point.”