Chelsea 2019: See the show gardens!

The M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon

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Andy Sturgeon

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

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Chris Beardshaw

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.”


The Warner Distillery Garden by Helen Elks-Smith

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Helen Elks-Smith

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

Thomas Hoblyn

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

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“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

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Andrew Duff

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.”