Garden name The Morgan Stanley Garden • Designer Chris Beardshaw • Sponsor Morgan Stanley • Build Chris Beardshaw
“FOR THIS YEAR’S show garden I wanted to revel in the fact that as a nation we have traditionally produced very lavish floral borders and here I want to reawaken people’s interest.
“RHS Chelsea show gardens have gone through all sorts of fads and fashions and the time is right, I feel, for a flower-rich garden. I want to reassure gardeners that it is possible to create these fabulous planting schemes without taking a resource-heavy, slavish approach that’s a lot of hard work.
“As ever I’ll be selecting the right plants for the conditions they’ll be growing in; this is the best way to keep plants healthy and growing well without recourse to chemicals and artificial fertilisers.
“The idea came from conversations about sustainability with the sponsor, Morgan Stanley; to design a herbaceous-rich garden, which will encourage conversation about how we, as gardeners, can manage resources more sensitively. The project looks at how we can move away from traditional, often linear practices of make, use, dispose, towards a more circular approach [in our gardens], minimising waste and keeping resources in use as long as possible.
“In many ways gardening isn’t all that green. Here we took the view that we wanted everything in the garden to be judged against the circular principle. For instance, the compost we’re using is generated from salvaged, water washed minerals and garden waste, which makes a positive change from coir- and peat-heavy products.
“The plants are all being grown in the new, 100% recyclable taupe plastic pots. It’s long been a mantra in commercial growing that ‘black plastic pots are best to warm the compost’, but actually, in tests by Kelways [the nursery producing all Chris’s plants this year] they’ve found the plants respond incredibly well to the taupe ones. The bonus here is the fact they are fully recyclable through council waste collection.
“We’re also pursuing an approach where we aren’t growing the plants under heat this year, nor are we going with a heavy fertiliser-rich growing regime - we’re just relying on the nutrients locked into the compost. So, everything we’ve put in - compost, pots fertiliser - is trying to bring plants to the show garden in the most efficient way possible.”
“We’ve applied the same principle to the buildings and materials we’re using, too. For pavers we’ve used porcelain, as it uses a high proportion of waste product in its manufacture, compared to quarried stone and is much more sustainable than stone.
“The engineering behind the two pavilions means they’re both lightweight, so easier to transport and construct on site, and also recyclable after the Show. Instead of using solid slate for the structure at the far end of the garden, we’re using a pioneering slate veneer that’s just 1mm thick and resin-bonded to the building beneath; it has the same serviceability and aesthetic of the raw material but it’s a lot lighter. The adjacent building is made from compressed strips of pine, bonded together so it’s strong as steel and allows us to support the cantilevered roof and is sustainably produced.
“For the curvilinear shelter floors we’ve used crushed and de-fibred bamboo that’s been pressure treated and heated to produce a wooden product that’s more resilient than hardwood.
“In previous years we’ve used heavy concrete blocks and render to build the garden walls, but this year the far wall uses micro-plaster and micro-render products that can be painted onto a smooth canvas in layers to create a light weight board just 12mm thick.
“It’s impossible to say the show garden is completely sustainable garden, but we’re certainly moving towards that goal. Even in the build process we’re using battery-powered vehicles and tools to keep the carbon footprint low, but hopefully without compromising on the beauty of the garden.”
“The main focal point in the planting is the dramatic pine tree, where nature has played a leading hand in shaping its trunk. Over the years, wind had blown it into 30deg angle, and where other nurseries might have thrown it out as unsaleable, this one was saved by the growers. I saw the sculpture in it immediately.
“Other trees include a large, standard Zelcova serrata tree, which has fresh, lime-green foliage and casts fabulous dappled shade so we can plant some perennials underneath. On the right-hand side is a scruffy old hawthorn – I wanted to celebrate one of our native trees. This specimen was grown as a multi-stem; they’re hardworking, resilient and sculptural, with floral bounty and fruits for wildlife.
“A series of neatly clipped yew lozenges lead the way into the garden – a metaphor for nature and the circular approach I’m taking here – and behind them are the glamorous herbaceous perennials.
It’s going to be a real mix of white, blue, yellow and pink, and flashes of orange for a bit of spice. I’ll be playing with the way old herbaceous borders were put together, using a series of well-defined contours, with taller plants at the back and shorter ones in the front. Within this layered approach, there will be a scalloped pattern of planting, so you can see the maximum amount of plants from any viewpoint. This design allows one plant to lean on its neighbours for natural support, reducing the need for staking.
“In effect it’s like a jigsaw of pieces which all have the job of supporting their neighbour and allowing for a transition of colour. It removes the need for weeding, so the only maintenance jobs are trimming down the plants and mulching them with organic matter after the season. It’s an idea pioneered in the long borders at Arley Hall, Cheshire, in the mid-1800s. Here I’ve updated the idea so it’s more relatable.
“Planting a herbaceous border isn’t about choosing plants so everything is in flower at the same time. Instead it’s about allowing some of the foliage to play a role – using the ‘sorbet course’ of green texture. We don’t want to create a kaleidoscope. So, you might have a shrub rose in flower beside a clematis in bud and then a euphorbia coming through in darker purple as an understorey. It’s all designed for a succession of flower to make a resilient tapestry.”
CHRIS’S PLANT PICKS
Some of the plants I’ll be using are often overlooked, but they’re all fabulously resilient.
• Anthemis puntata cupiana (Scilian chamomile). Delicate ferny foliage and looks like an oxeye daisy with blooms right across the plant. May-July. H40cm (16in) S80cm (32in) Pic: Beth Chatto
• Digitalis ‘Illumination’ series. These are colourful, overexcited plants with lush foliage and a bevy of blooms. June-Nov. H90cm (35in) S45cm (18in) Pic: Thompson & Morgan
• Erigeron annuus (tall fleabane). An appearance almost like a firecracker, with vibrant green upright stems and flowers born on every shoot like a sparkler. June-Oct. H1m (3ft 3in) S60cm (24in). Pic: Great Dixter
• Geranium maderense. One of my trademark plants - a delight with unabashed lipstick-pink blooms and great zest. May-July. H1m (3ft 3in) S 80cm (32in). Pic: Thompson & Morgan
• Lupin ‘Persian Slipper’. Super electric blue flower spikes on stout stems with no gaps. May-June. H75cm S60cm (24in). Pic: PlugPlants.net
• Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (species daylily). Primrose-yellow fluted single trumpets blooming May-June. H1m (3ft 3in) S40cm (16xin). Pic: Crocus
• Phlox Carolina ‘Bill Baker’. Many phloxes have lovely fragrance but are slightly hard work. This one is an early flowering lilac blue that’s beautifully scented on an evening - so an absolute must. May-August. H and S60cm (24in). Pic: Beth Chatto
See the new plants making their debut at Chelsea this year. From a sumptuous regal clematis to ruffled irises and blowsy roses, there’s plenty to tempt you in The Great Pavilion
Lupinus ‘Bishop’s Tipple’ Perky lilac flower spikes with a hint of yellow, borne on strong, stocky stems from early May. Pleated palmate leaves look lovely in dew. Prefers sun and a moist but well-drained soil. H75cm (2ft) S50cm (19in). £8.50 for 9cm pot from Westcountry Lupins 01237 431111; www.westcountrylupins.co.uk
Iris ‘Natchez Trace’ Copper-toned bearded iris that’s sure the turn heads at this year’s Chelsea. The darker falls have a soft, satiny feel, while the standards have a decadent, ruffled appearance. Prefers sun or part shade and well-drained soil. H85cm (33in) S30cm (12in). £7.50 for 11cm pot from Todds Botanics 01376 561212; www.toddsbotanics.co.uk
Rosa ‘Gabriel Oak’ Named after the dignified, hardworking and honest character in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. A vigorous rose, bearing large, many-petalled rosette blooms, this variety is very much in the style of the Old Roses. The outer petals of each bloom are a striking shade of deep pink which pale slightly over time, creating a most charming effect. Coupled with a wonderful strong fruity fragrance, this shapely, rounded shrub exudes richness and abundance. H and S1.25cm (4ft). £21.50 bare root; £28 containerised from David Austin Roses 01902 376300; www.davidaustinroses.co.uk
Rosa ‘Eustacia Vye’ Named after the exotically beautiful but restless heroine of The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, this an exceedingly pretty shrub rose in soft, glowing apricot-pink. Each bloom is packed with multiple, delicately ruffled petals on red-tinged stems. Strong, fruity fragrance and bushy, upright growth. A very healthy variety. H1.25m (4ft) S90cm (35in). £21.50 bare root; £28 containerised from David Austin Roses 01902 376300; www.davidaustinroses.co.uk
Salvia ‘Amethyst Lips’ Stunning bicoloured purple-and-white flowered salvia related to the popular red and white salvia ‘Hot Lips’. This reliable shrubby perennial flowers throughout summer from June to October. Prefers a moist but well drained soil in full sun. H1m (3ft 3in) S75cm (29in). £6.50 for 1L pot from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants 01256 896533; www.hardysplants.co.uk
Digitalis valinii ‘Firebird’ Developed by breeder John Fielding, this exotic-looking beauty is a cross between our own native Digitalis purpurea and the Canary Island foxglove, Digitalis canariensis. Flowers emerge on upright stems from May to October, with a deep apricot undertone and freckles inside the flower throat. Plants are hardy to -5C (xxF) and popular with bees. Performs best in a fertile soil enriched with organic matter, in part shade. H90cm (35in) S50cm (19in). £7.50 for 1L pot from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants 01256 896533; www.hardysplants.co.uk
Heuchera ‘Cool Dude’ Unusual cool green foliage with silvery-frosting and deeper green veins are joined by tall, large bell-shaped dusky-pink flowers on strong stems in June and August. Easy to grow and mound forming, good for ground cover in full or part shade. Loved by the bees. Bred in the UK by Richard and Vicky Fox, so will stand up to variable British winters. H30cm (12in) S40cm (16in). £7.50 for 1L plant from Plantagogo 01270 820335; www.plantagogo.com
Heuchera ‘Burgundy Bill’ Voluptuous-looking heuchera with eye-catching burgundy-red foliage that glows bright in sunlight. Pretty pure white flowers from June-August show up well against the tall burgundy-red stems and richer foliage. Very easy to grow and loved by bees. Best in sun or part shade in a free draining soil. H30cm (12in) S40cm (16in). £7.50 for 1L plant from Plantagogo 01270 820335; www.plantagogo.com
Dianthus ‘Cherry Burst’ One of a new generation of sweetly perfumed, single-flowered fully hardy pinks that’s perfect for border edges or patio pots, bred by Whetman Plants International. Flowering continuously from May to September ‘Cherry Burst’ has interesting chocolate-coloured buds that open to a deep maroon eye, bleeding out to a lighter pink border over compact grey/green foliage. Plant in sun in any reasonable soil. H30cm (12in) S25cm (10in). £7.50 for 1L from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants 01256 896533; www.hardysplants.co.uk
Clematis 'Meghan' Bred by New Leaf Plants, dark purply-red clematis ‘Meghan’ joins the royal family of clematis offered by Thorncroft Clematis. The deciduous, large early flowered climber was named and introduced in limited numbers last year to celebrate the royal wedding, but will now enjoy its formal launch at Chelsea. The stunning flowers are produced May to June and again July-September on the current season’s growth. Plant in sun or part shade. Prune Feb/March. H and S1.5m (5ft) £15 from Thorncroft Clematis 01953 850407; www.thorncroftclematis.co.uk
Clematis 'Scented Clem' This enchanting lilac-blue clematis is part of the Sugar Sweet range, and its starry flowers with an almond scent particularly strong at dawn and dusk. Blooms emerge April-May – so it’ll hopefully be in flower at Chelsea! Plants have shown good resistance to clematis wilt and are vigorous, floriferous growers, bred from the species C. cadmia by Ton Hannink from the Netherlands. Plant in sun or part shade. H and Sxxm (8-10ft). £15 from Thorncroft Clematis 01953 850407; www.thorncroftclematis.co.uk
The M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon
“IT ALL STARTED when I saw some black rocks emerging from a beach in Australia. I loved their drama and the way they were becoming subsumed by the sand and colonised by pioneer plants. I love the lants are able to colonise all – even lava flows at the base of Mount Etna.
“I wanted to create a wodland garden for its atmosphere, but didn’t want to use rocks so instead I’ve gone for a sculptural burnt oak, stratefied into layers and upright but leaning at the same angle. It means that from one side of the garden you can see the black t and green plants against it, but from the front you can see between the rocks, framing different sightslines of the garden.
“The trees I’ve chosen at three enormous Carpinus betula (hornbeam) and Nothofagus antarctica (southern beech) - both havevery small leaves and characterful trunks so you’ll create a woodland atmosphere but without casting too much shade.
“I’ve also used lots of pioneer plants that have a primitive quality - algae, mosses and lichens, ferns, restios and equisetums, which have been around since the age of the dinosaurs. In the pond is aquatic Cyperus alternifolius which also has a primitive look. It’s all very green, so there are lots of leaf textures and shapes, and little pops of jewel colours from primulas and Lilium martagon ‘Claude Shride’.
“We have a large Aralia cordata, some aruncus and two types of angelica – Angelica archangelica and Angelica dahurica throughout the garden, and lots of grasses such as Melica altimissima ‘Alba’.
“I’m definitely not intending to mimic nature - it’s a garden space but it might be a bit scruffy around the edges.”
The Morgan Stranley Garden by Chris Beardshaw
“FOR THIS YEAR’S show garden I wanted to reawaken people’s interest in the flower-rich herbaceous border.
“Inspired by the circular economy – being sensitive to resources and opportunities to recycle – here we’ve tried to bring plants to the show in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. The plants are all being grown without heat or additional fertiliser in 100% recyclable taupe plastic pots, using compost made from salvaged, water-washed minerals and garden waste. The buildings are all made from lightweight recyclable composites to keep our carbon footprint low as possible. We’ll be using battery-powered machinery instead of diesel, too.
“The main focal point is the dramatic pine tree sculpted by the wind into a 30 degree angle. There’a also a Zelcova serrata, a native hawthorn and neatly clipped yew lozenges. The herbaceous planting is going to be a mix of white, blue, yellow and pink, and flashes of orange for a bit of spice. The plants will be layered into contours, with taller plants at the back, shorter ones in front, in a scalloped pattern for maximum impact. It’s an idea pioneered at Arley Hall, Cheshire, in the mid-1800s that I’ve updated here for a succession of colour and a tapestry of foliage texture.”
TO READ THE LONG VERSION OF THIS FEATURE CLICK HERE
The Warner Distillery Garden by Helen Elks-Smith
“THE BRIEF WAS to create a garden that reflected the landscape at Falls Farm – the location of Warner’s Distillery in Northamptonshire,” says Helen. “I’ve taken inspiration from its natural springs and aquifers, the landscape of rock and water, rolling fields and native hedgerows.
“The central structure is an enclosed courtyard with a chimney. There’s a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright in its shape, which uses two cantilevered roofs that jut out over the dry stone walls. Copper fins are inset at different heights, allowing water to trickle from the roof.
“For the planting I’ve used native hedgerow plants such as blackthorn, which produces the sloes used to flavour gin, and Juniperus communis, also used in gin production.
“The colour scheme is blue-green and silver, with shots of bolder colour from irises ‘Benton Caramel’ and ‘Quechee’. There are nepeta, salvias ‘Mainacht’ and ‘Caradonna’, verbascum ‘Violetta’, foxgloves and ferns. The overall planting texture has a loose feel but at Chelsea there’s always a bit of a hot shoe shuffle at the end!”
The Dubai Majlis garden by Thomas hoblyn
“THE DESIGN is based on the wild, arid landscapes of hot countries in the Middle East and Mediterranean. It’s a sculptural interpretation of a terraced mountainside where, over time, the wind, heat and cold have transformed the rocks into smooth curves.
“We’re using limestone, red ironstone gravel and a clay render that mimics the Moroccan tadelakt plaster you find in ancient Dubai. The shelter is inspired by the curve of sand dunes, created by steam bending the timber.
“For plants I’ve chosen a watercolour palette of blue and burnt orangey-reds. These are offset by the blue-greens of santolina and teucrium, dark green pistacia and lime green euphorbia, which looks great against the red gravel.
“The trees are Parrotia persica, Ziziphus jujuba and pomegranate – chosen for its tactile bark and pinky-orange flowers. There are aloes, salvias, Agapanthus africanus and an orange-flowered plant called bulbine – which has a lovely exotic, succulent look.”
The Greenfingers Charity Garden by Kate Gould
“THIS IS MY 10th Chelsea garden and this year the design is for Greenfingers charity – an organisation that creates gardens for children’s hospices around the UK. The design is aimed at children and families who rely on the hospices and spend their time mostly looking at ceilings from a hospital bed. Here they can look up at green things and feel their wind on their face.
“The design incoporates a two-storey structure as the site is next to the marquee, and there’s a lift for access – theres’s not enough room for a long series of ramps. There are buttons to press for light and sound, a waving water feature and a cargo net that the children can lie on above a seating area directly below.
“As it’s a hospice garden the paving is made from porcelaine which is easy to clean, and composite decking. There are wirework sculptures by Emma Stotford, of fruit and mobiles. There’s green woven apple swingseat lined with sheepskins so it’s nice and cosy. There’a s lot of stuff in it to entertain the children and their siblings when they come to visit – no trampolines but lots of activites the whole family can enjoy together including colourful glazed bricks by Ibstock and a panel water feature.
“The planting is mostly low maintenenace, using lots of colourful mounding shrubs to make domes, including choisya ‘Greenfingers’ which was named for the charity. The upper storey planting is drought and pollution tolerant. And although it’s designed to be low care there are patches of flowers and perennial planting for a softer look, using tree ferns, white and yellow lupins, orlaya and grasses as well as roses around the perimeter.”
The Savills & David Harber Garden by Andrew Duff
“HERE I’VE SOUGHT to create a beautiful, sustainable woodland clearing in a city garden, showing how even city dwellers can do their bit to help the environment.
“The garden showcases a host of sustainable features, such as a water-purifying wetland area, a green wall and rain-permeable surfaces. Black alder and hornbeam trees help to filter pollution, a filtration pool cleans grey water and stores it via a water-harvesting system.
“A key feature of the garden is the central pool where a 3.5m (11ft) sculpture by David Harber soars into the tree canopy above a shadow of ‘leaves’ that flutter on the water surface.
“The planting is naturalistic, with lots of green textures and soft white and yellow flowers offering a bit of sunshine in the dappled shade. There will be beautiful British buttercups in the meadowturf, Smyrnium olusatrum, and in the pond, flag irises (Iris pseudacorus) and reeds (Typha latifolia) – both are good plants for filtering water.”
1. You’re about to step out for a spot of weeding wearing a wide-brimmed hat, with a trug in one hand and a glass of Pimm's in the other. And you don't feel at all self-conscious.
2. You run a Google search for 15-foot slabs of polished marble for the garden and they don't sound too pricey.
3. You decide to dig up your driveway in favour of an elaborate box parterre, with white rose standards at the corners and a froth of white cow parsley in the middle. After all, there’s always space to park the car on the road…
4. You begin following Cleve, Chris, Diarmuid and Andy on Twitter. And Monty.
5. You’ve just turned down an invite to dine with friends because the Her Majesty the Queen is about to turn up to view the gardens and you don’t want to miss her outfit.
6. Your favourite plant is Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.
7. Your partner suggests ‘Let’s build a pond’ and already you’re picturing a reflecting pool fed by a narrow copper rill, with corten-steel stepping stones and an enormous spherical glass fountain that lights up at night.
8. All your plants are packed into the garden cheek-by-jowl – at the Chelsea rate of 30 to the square metre. The effect is glorious (for now)!
9. Next door’s cocker spaniel has made off with your robot mower.
10. You’ve planted five multi-stemmed Himalayan birches, three topiaried yew trees and a small copse of Katsura trees in a garden that’s just 5x5m in size…
Happy Chelsea! Don’t forget to apply for free tickets – click here!