Design David Neale Sponsor Silent Pool Gin Build Neale Richards Garden Design Theme Contemporary yet relaxing city haven for a professional couple to unwind in
“ONCE YOU build a show garden you get the bug for it – a perverse sense of enjoyment and excitement, and when we won a gold medal at the 2010 Hampton Court Palace show we decided we’d design our own Chelsea garden one day – and this is it.
“I’d always thought that Silent Pool Distillery, near Guildford, would make a great theme for a show garden. For one thing it has beautiful brand colours – the bottles are a rich teal with 24 botanics embossed in copper round the sides. For another, the distillery is located close to the Silent Pool itself – an historic, spring-fed lake at the bottom of the North Downs. Legend has it a young woodcutter’s daughter was drowned here by a stranger on horseback – said to be King John in disguise. So the brand has a very powerful narrative too.
“We’re using UK-sourced materials, such as weathered-oak decking from Norbury Park, Purbeck dry-stone walling and Portland stone paving. We’ve chosen 5.5m (18ft) tall Carpinus betulus (hornbeam) with rootballs each weighing a tonne. The overall effect is of a leafy glade above a pool where dappled shade instantly cools the air.
“Copper accents drift through the blue and white colour scheme with swathes of Iris fulva and coppery fern Dryopteris erythrosora set against blue irises, amsonia, delphiniums, Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’, aquilegia ‘Hensol Harebell’, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Alexanders Great’, geraniums ‘Brookside’ and ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and Allium caeruleum.
“We’re planting botanicals too – irises (orris root is used in gin), Angelica archangelica for structure and height, chamomile for ground cover and white lavender in containers. Swathes of anthriscus softens the whole appearance, and grasses provide a semi-prairie effect around the boardwalk area.
“Getting the infinity pool 100% level with just the right flow of water is our biggest challenge. The pool is made from London Stone DesignClad porcelain tiles for a Corten-steel effect, with a rill around the perimeter and a twisted citrus peel sculpture in hammered copper, by Giles Rayner, at the centre.”
Design Hay Joung Hwang Sponsor LG Electronics Build Randle Siddeley Theme Sustainable city living
“This year my design focuses on how to combat air pollution in our major cities. During my research I came across the work of Professor Barbara Mayer at Lancaster University on the role trees can play in intercepting toxin particles – some are 20x smaller than a grain of sand, so they can get into the lungs and bloodstream, causing a wide range of cancers.
“Every tree has a different efficiency at absorbing this pollution. Silver birch, maples and pine trees are better at it than oak or willow. One of the best is Acer tataricum ginnala, and we have five of them in this garden. Moss is very powerful in eliminating pollution too. According to research, 24m2 of moss can remove 500g of pollution every day – the equivalent of 275 trees! Here the moss is integrated into an aquaponic system, with ferns dotted through the design to create volume, rhythm and balance.
“Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics (where you use water to grow plants, instead of soil) and aqua culture. It’s more efficient than hydroponics because you can use fish waste as plant nutrients to make growing vegetables more sustainable.
“I always like to use technology in my designs. Here I’m using solar windows made by UK company Polysolar, which contain photo-voltaic cells that can generate electricity.
“As for the herbaceous planting, it’s another feminine, romantic fantasy like my 2016 Chelsea garden! The colour scheme is pale orange, pale yellow and white, using white foxgloves, poppies, lupins, tulips, trollius and roses. On top of the building is a sedum roof – in design terms for a balance of aesthetics, plus the sedum will attract lots of pollinators too.”
Design Nic Howard Sponsor David Harber & Savills Build Langdale Landscapes Theme Humankind’s relationship with the environment
“I have designed the trade stand for [sculptor] David Harber for the past two years, but this is my first show garden. David, Savills and I are all passionate about the project and want to create a garden where visitors can take ideas home.
“The design portrays the impact humans have had on the planet. It’s a stylised timeline of our interaction with the environment, and evolves as you walk through it. A meandering path leads from naturalistic planting at the front toward more formal, cultivated planting at the back.
“At the front grasses and self-sown cirsium and foxgloves are planted in a wild but ‘gardenesque’ manner, around a bronze sculpture panel. The planting gradually becomes more refined, using drifts of peonies, salvias, nepeta and alchemilla, and finishing at the far end with an Aeon sculpture (representing the life force). It’s a huge (2.4x 4m/8x13ft) organic bronze form with a gold starburst as its nucleus, made from gold leaf metal rods.
“The planting is mainly perennials and trees, so it’s soft and flowery. We’ve chosen four multistem Betula nigra as part of a mixed colour scheme, with punches of purple, dark red and orange. It’s very verdant, with nice big peonies and lupins; the trick is using grasses and ‘filler plants’ with a nice leaf form, such as Aster divaricatus to provide a visual rest.
“Sculpture is the real lynchpin. From Main Avenue you can look down the centre of the garden through a sculptural ‘wormhole’, symbolising the passage of time. This is formed by a bronze panel at the front then three oxidised laser-cut steel screens with a contemplation bench halfway along made from a woven jungle of verdigris bronze strips.”
Design & Build Kate Gould Sponsor New West End Co & Sir Simon Milton Foundation Theme Greening the West End
“Our design is a modern interpretation of the green space and architecture of a typical London square. Our sponsor, the New West End company, represents business interests around Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street, and they wanted to create communal green space for tourists and locals to sit and enjoy.
“As a nod to London’s classical architecture, the walls are clad in Ashlar. For other structural elements we’re using a mix of high- tech materials including kinetic paving, which harnesses pedestrian footsteps to create energy, made by UK-company Pavegen. A pergola gives overhead privacy and a fountain introduces the soothing sound of water.
“There are lots of nooks and crannies where we show how it’s possible to green the side of buildings, using a palette of evergreen ferns to clothe window frames.
“The main border is bucolic and English in style, using peonies, roses, irises, lupins, hostas, gillenias, salvias and amsonia. The colours stand out well against the strong green backdrop. Shrubby sarcococca will bulk it out a bit, with grasses such as coppery Anemanthele lessoniana ‘Sirocco’ and Nassella tenuissima for softness. Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree) and Acer tataricum ginnala are pollution-tolerant ‘street’ trees that cope well with shade. We’re including low hedges in yew or euonymus and there’s an area of lawn, which is quite a bold departure for me.
“The main challenge is how to make the buildings stand up! With a Chelsea garden so many things can come and bite you.”
Design Catherine MacDonald Sponsor Seedlip Distillery Build Landform Consultants Theme A celebration of the humble pea
“My brief this year was quite simple: a garden that celebrates the pea! There are three main lines of inspiration – the first is that the garden’s sponsor, Ben Branson, comes from a family with a 300-year history of farming, and peas are among the crops they grow. They’re also a key ingredient in one of Seedlip’s non-alcoholic distillations, Garden 108.
“Second, it’s an opportunity to pay tribute to Dr Calvin Lamborn, who bred the first sugarsnap pea in the 1960s. Sadly he died last year, but we visited his family’s farm in Idaho and came back armed with lots of unusual peas including three new cultivars.
“Third, my background is in genetics, so here I’ve referenced the work of Gregor Mendel who bred peas to establish the laws of inheritance. I’ve divided the 10x10m (33x33ft) garden into 16 squares, representing how breeding crosses are presented.
“All the plants are members of the pea family, Fabaceae. For instance, the three trees are multistem Japanese pagoda trees (Styphnolobium japonica) together with the carob tree Ceratonia siliqua.
“The herbaceous planting underneath includes edible and ornamental plants in yellow, red and purple – the colours of sugar snap and snow pea pods. These include lupin ‘Masterpiece’, baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ and ‘Twilight Prairie’, and also Trifolium incarnatum from the clover genus. For height I’ve included laser-cut metal columns with sweet peas growing up them – such as Lathyrus odoratus ‘Beaujolais’.
“The front façade of our pea pavilion – or peavilion! – comprises green metal tubes welded together to make a screen. The green roof is a lawn made from garden pea shoots – Pisum sativum.
“The main challenge this year stems from the fact I’m limiting myself to one plant family. I’ve never done it before but at least Fabaceae is the third largest so they’re very important for pollinators and especially bumblebees. If nothing else, the garden reveals the sheer beauty and diversity of the pea family.”