Drawing royalty, celebrities and the horticultural A-list, eleven top designers competed in creating impressive show gardens. We review five of the medal-winning creations …
The M&G Garden won a gold medal and “Best In Show” and was designed by multiple award-winner Andy Sturgeon, known for his thought-provoking landscape designs. This garden celebrates nature’s dynamic beauty in how it regenerates and flourishes in all kinds of places. A bio-diverse range of plant species from around the world is growing here, some making their first appearance at Chelsea. Standing out from the vibrantly green, lush planting are huge, striking sculptures hinting at striations of dark, ancient rock formations but formed out of 50 tonnes of sustainable burnt-oak timber, by craftsman Johnny Woodford. A stream, symbolic of life and energy, flows alongside a staircase of ironstone platforms, ending in a tranquil pool.
The Morgan Stanley Garden by Chris Beardshaw, added another RHS Gold medal to his stash of awards. Beardshaw designed a garden full of herbaceous-rich plants featuring a large, sculptural pine tree (Pinus Nigra) for height and dimension. A linear terrace at the front is adorned by large, topiary domes from where a pathway winds over a water rill between herbaceous borders, towards two contemporary pods which offer space to rest, relax and entertain. The plant colour palette is mainly of pink, white and blue with occasional pops of brighter colours. Managing resources sensitively, minimising waste and recycling where possible, are key to his “good gardening” guidelines.
Mark Gregory’s Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, which won RHS Gold, offered a slice of traditional countryside with contemporary elements. This garden is inspired by the rich heritage and landscape of West Yorkshire, where old canal life is making way for the new. It features a gravel (hoggin style) towpath running next to a perennial meadow that borders the narrow lock gates and Lock Keeper’s lodge, with its private garden and vegetable patch. Planting is a mix of the soft and structural, in blue, yellow and white colour schemes, including wild and cultivated lupins. For authenticity, this garden uses original and reclaimed material where possible, such as masonry walling and the canal sides and gates.
The Dubai Majlis Garden by Thomas Hoblyn, which won a Silver Gilt medal, continues the Middle Eastern presence at the show, started by HRH Sheikh Zayed who loved gardens. Hoblyn’s show garden comprises three main elements: a sand dune-inspired pavilion that provides a contemplative space for people to meet; a water source connecting to an oasis-like pool; and a garden evoking a Middle Eastern feel, with white limestone and gravel mimicking eroded rock in arid locations. The highlight for Hoblyn was creating the pavilion: “Our majlis pavilion was created by steam-bending eleven-metre pieces of timber – something that has never been achieved anywhere before. Though fraught with worry, this was certainly the most interesting process.”
Ikea and Tom Dixon won a RHS Silver medal for their pioneering, inaugural, two-tier show garden, which presents radical new solutions for a sustainable, future lifestyle. The lower hyperreal garden, uses innovative technology in horizontal stacking and vertical units, to grow hydroponic and aeroponic edible foods (fruits and vegetables, salad leaves, herbs, mushroom) under advanced LED lighting. The upper supernatural garden is an open, botanic oasis, an eco-system of beneficial, nutritional trees, flowers and plants, interspersed with vegetables, showing how nourishing produce can easily be grown at home. Says Dixon “Gardening is unique in its universal appeal and its transformational power. Without plants and more planting, we are all in trouble”.
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