Monday, 18 May 2015

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, part 1

All in the detail


“Details, darling” has became something of a tongue-in-cheek catchphrase, uttered with a knowing sparkle in the eye of Mr James Alexander Sinclair on the recent The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. Too right. A garden – any garden, but especially a show garden – stands or falls by the degree to which the finer details are resolved; the edges of things, the points at which materials and surfaces meet, the finishing touches, the finessing of the individual plants into the ground, and the complexity of the layers of both soft and hard landscaping that can be built up without detracting from the impact of the garden. I love working at a detailed level, the space I have in front of me, but a good gardener can flip quickly and repeatedly from the micro to the macro level, and I often have to remind myself to take a step back and survey the whole. With show gardens, though, I delight in the details, so today I fitted a short telephoto lens on the camera, and deliberately denied myself the wider view. Here’s what caught my eye.

Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden occupies the oddly shaped triangle plot in the showground, and the masterly representation of a semi natural space – inspired by the trout stream at Chatsworth House and surrounding landscape – is entirely down to the balance between the wider scale, represented by the mass of the boulders, mature trees and huge oak trunk sculpture, and the detailed level, evidenced by the entirely convincing communities of wildflower seen in the smallest six inch square of ground space.

Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden
Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden
Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden

Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden

Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden

Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden
Detail from Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden
Staggeringly good – I could happily have spent all day in this one spot, and still not have finished seeing everything.

Just over the way on the rock bank site, Darren Hawkes' garden for Brewin Dophin initially appears very different, largely due to the striking impact of the blue grey platforms constructed with thousands of pieces of cut slate, complemented by reclaimed granite flagstone paving. But first impressions aside, this is another garden of water and stone, softened by naturalistic planting. An underground river flows through the site, punctuating the flow of the garden by appearing through various well openings, before cascading into a pool through outlets in the dry stone wall. I was delighted to see the may blossom on the hawthorn hedge wrapping around the site, and even more so by the inclusion of the elm trees of a height an girth comparable to that which you might still see today, before they reach the height at which the pathogen-spreading beetles become interested in them as a food source.

Detail from Darren Hawkes’ Garden for Brewin Dolphin

Detail from Darren Hawkes’ Garden for Brewin Dolphin

Detail from Darren Hawkes’ Garden for Brewin Dolphin
Right at the other end of main avenue is Jo Thompson’s garden The Retreat, for M&G. This is a place in which to get lost for a day or so, to wander and think, to relax, and be alone with your thoughts.

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat
If ever a show garden had a sense of place, it’s this – I wonder if I relate to it particularly strongly since Jo has conceived it from the start as a setting for a writer’s den and, to be honest, I just want to move in, sit with my notebook and gaze at the surface of the natural swimming pool, or stroll along the plant fringed, familiar hoggin paths to the luxurious seclusion of that wonderful oak cabin.

Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat
Detail from Jo Thompson’s M&G Garden The Retreat
The sudden heavy downpours that were a feature of the morning had even hardened press folk running for cover. I took advantage of one such interlude to have Matthew Wilson’s Royal Bank of Canada Garden to myself – well, at least the front edges of it – and lingered a while, enjoying the sinuous intertwining curves of the water channel and the raised wooden deck, with a ribbon of carved stone playfully following along the margin where they meet.

Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden. The end of the stone ribbon
Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden. Tiered water feature, marginal and dry garden planting
The rain seemed appropriate (which was just as well, it was hammering down by now), as this garden has been designed with water conservation at its heart. Rain water fills the central channel,  feeding the three tiered water feature while also providing sufficient irrigation for the edible plants and the hedge of pineapple-guava. The main feature of the dry garden area which borders the front edge of the garden is a stunning micro-bonsai olive tree, quite the show stopper on main avenue.

Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden. The fabulous micro-bonsai olive
There are wonderful textural details here; the contrasts between the roughness of the crushed stone and the smoothness of the cedar deck, the rough-hewn sandstone blocks of the walls and the smooth, substantial limestone coping stones, the playful mirroring of the large, white allium heads in the form of the smaller flowers on the santolina, and the harmony between the needle-like leaves of rosemary and teatree Leptospermum scoparium 'Manuka Honey'.

Detail from Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden

Detail from Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden

Beautiful Rosa glauca on Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden

Rosemary (left) and teatree (right) on Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden

Detail from Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden

Detail from Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden
And then there’s that olive. It might have taken many man-hours to prune the tree into that shape. But when it comes to texture, nature does best.

Detail from Matthew Wilson’s RBC Garden
Plenty more photos and gardens to get through, please check back on the blog for part 2, coming soon...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew, I found your blog via twitter and stopped to have a read. Very interesting, especially as you are in Kent too (I am on the coast). Lovely photos of Chelsea. We're going on Thursday and I'm really looking forward to it. Best wishes, Sam.

    ReplyDelete