Chelsea's Curtain Call

Chelsea's Curtain Call

May 31, 2010
Photo by: Paul Hervey-Brookes

The Chelsea Flower Show was a whirlwind and rather an amazing experience by any standard.  I was very lucky to be next door to some lovely people whilst creating the Biodiversity Garden for Bradstone which was awarded a prestigious Silver Medal.   The garden set about highlighting biodiversity issues whilst being a beautiful place to escape into from our modern busy lives.   Luckily for me this combination and some what simple approach was in tune with two lovely gardening television presenters from Australia and Austria who decided to do lengthly pieces on biodiversity from the garden along with the BBC who did a lot about about biodiversity from the garden during their Chelsea coverage.

The garden highlighted simple nectar rich flowers planted in shades of purples and yellows.  These colours are, through our eyes, particularly attractive to bees and pollinating insects according to research carried out at Universities.  The planting was also multi-layered as we know that different layers are in habited by different insect life.  Towards the rear of the garden larger foliage plants created dappled shade for small mammals and a Hornbeam hedge acted as the wildlife alternative to the motorway as a green corridor connecting the urban space back out to the countryside.   The garden also had decomposing log walls for stag-horn beetle and I designed the classically inspired portico which was bespoke made by Bradstone to encourage crevice nesting birds such as House Sparrow which has declined in numbers by over 70% in the last 20 years in England. 

These messages were endorsed by the Wildlife Trust and Trees for Cities, two charities who are passionate about wildlife and the importance of urban greening. 

One of the really important aspects of the garden for me was that it be beautiful.  In order that people looking at the garden were to go home and recreate some of the habitat spaces we were talking about I felt strongly that people would need to feel it was something they could live with and then almost by default the important messages would become second nature. 

The Chelsea Flower Show also marked the end of my time as Chris Beardshaw Scholar.  My year has been challenging, exciting and went very fast and I am intensely proud of it.  It is one of two very important mile stones in my horticultural life so far and the other caught up with me in the most unexpected way at Chelsea this year when I met George Anderson, former Head of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It was a sheer delight to be able to talk to him again, tell him what I have been up to these past years and simply listen to snippets of his incredible plant knowledge.

Around the show ground everyone seemed to agree that this was a vintage year with a huge variety of beautiful gardens.  Being an international renowned event their where gardens created by designers and sponsors from Australia, Japan and Norway.  Highlights for me included the Hillier display in the marquee which won them their 65th consecutive gold medal at Chelsea, a huge achievement.  I did speak to a couple of American visitors and a man from Texas had wanted to purchase the Lock Gates on one of the exhibits on Main Avenue for his Ranch.  Perhaps with so many wonderful gardens and influential landscape designers like Beatrix Farrand, Thomas Church and Garrett Eckbo it would be hugely interesting to have a Garden at Chelsea Flower Show which demonstrated the beauty of American gardens.