Monty Don and Joe Swift look back at the highlights of their week at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
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We've had a week of suspense, exhilaration and a few tears. But
now, we've come to the end of the world's most famous flower show.
Chelsea is over for another year but before we say goodbye, here's a
chance to enjoy some of this year's greatest hits. Sit back, put your
feet up and settle down for our floral finale.
Welcome back to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, an event supported by
M Investments. Over the last six days thousands of visitors have
flooded in to the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea to enjoy
the breathtaking work of some of the world's best garden designers, and
CB horticultural skills from across the world. Chelsea is the
culmination of months of work to produce plants and show gardens just
at their peak of perfection. Now is your chance to catch up with some of
the highlights from this very special week in the gardening
calendar. Will be visiting some of our favourite show gardens,
celebrating with medal winners and meeting some of the exhibitors and
designers who make the show such a great experience. To get a show
garden ready for Chelsea takes an extraordinary amount of effort. That
can test even the most experienced designer. No one knows this better
than four times gold medal winner, James Basson. He faced a Herculean
task finishing his garden, as Sophie Raworth found out. James Basson is
famous for bringing a slice of Mediterranean France to Chelsea over
the past few years. Olive groves, lavender fields, trickling streams.
This year his garden couldn't be more different. This is
extraordinary, what are you creating? A quarry. I'm fanatical
about quarries, a little bit obsessed. It is a complete departure
from what you've brought to Chelsea for the past five or six years. We
often do quite soft lines and planting so we thought we would do
something contrast in. We've got our wild, soft, Willie look. But against
the hard straight lines of a quarry. What is going to rise out of this?
Describe it to us. The whole thing has got to feel like a quarry and
that it has been tweaked into a garden. They backfill quarries and
plant them with weeds and olives and trees and everything is slightly
dwarfed by the massive pillars on the left. Use a massive, that is the
smaller one, isn't it? Yes, that's the smaller one. What will be the
big challenges? The biggest challenge is finishing. You always
finish! But this is a big, big builds.
It's the moment when all the jigsaw puzzle starts to link up. The stone
is quarried in Malta. Cut in Malta, packed in Malta, and brought out and
laid by the Maltese hands. They've been putting it together and these
guys with their serious skill have been making it feel knitted, tight
and perfect. We are always very keen to start planting. Probably a bit
too keen to start planting. I've probably been a paying client you
don't want standing over you. I think this would be a much cooler,,,
reserved construction if I wasn't here. Just kicking, kicking,
kicking. This is what I would call extreme
gardening, because I'm going up. How funny to see you up here, James!
This is definitely extreme planting. It's a very tall, raised bed,
really! You started the planting down there. We started in the
woodland and we've gone from the lush landscape. As we get further
around the garden it gets drier and harder, until we start planting dead
things. It's looking spectacular, it's so different to what you've
done in the past. I think because it's a very contemporary looking
structure. It looks like a brutalist tower block. I'm quite attracted to
that architecture. You've got a great bird's eye view of the
showground up here. Yes, you are lucky to be up here, loads of people
have been asking to come up, you are the first one up here. What a
privilege! It's great! All James' hard work paid off. The result was
an inspired and beautifully executed garden. The judges thought so too.
It went on to receive not only a gold medal, but the Best Show Garden
award. I have got so much pleasure from this garden but it has been
slightly controversial. It does divide people, doesn't it. Tell me
the story about it. I love to see how vegetation comes back in areas
of minimal resources. I'm really into Mediterranean plants, for the
same reasons. There's very little rainfall, very high sunshine, often
high winds, salty winds. To see plants surviving and not looking
perfect but natural and cranky and wonderful, for me, is exciting. I
suppose for a lot of people, when they come to Chelsea, they say, is
this a garden? Yes. Or is it a stage set? What's the answer? This is an
edited landscape. Yes, the plants have naturalised and there are blogs
in the ground naturally, well, not naturally but post-quarrying. So
these are as if they were in the quarry? They would be more staggered
and irregular. We've made them into a man conceived pattern, and
organise the plants. Not by planting, more by editing, weeding.
We might have added plants. We are really studying the fringe
communities between steppe vegetation, pavement vegetation.
Those fringe communities are quite hard to maintain. And you put in a
swimming pool. We have. It's a garden, therefore it is for
pleasure. In the heat of Malta you need to cool off. Briefly,
environmentally, this is something you're passionate about,
particularly with the Maltese quarries. Malta is on the southern
tip of Europe, and its suffering from lack of water, rising
temperatures and overpopulation. It's having to deal with all the
things we potentially would be dealing with in years to come. And,
at the moment, they have been slightly abusing their landscape.
This is really a message to say, look at what you've got and please
cherish it. Look what we've got, we've got a wonderful garden, you've
got Best In Show, congratulations. Thank you. I think that really was a
standout garden this year. Quite a difficult subject to get across in a
garden but he did it beautifully. This year there were eight show
gardens. Sophie and I checked them out. This is quite a build, isn't
it? You've really had to build up this site. Yes, it was quite an
ambitious builds. We brought in a lot of soil and had to Brill 's
strong retaining walls. Yes cars you've got a neighbour next job. How
have you found the experience? I've really enjoyed it. It's quite hectic
with a lot of coming and going on Main Avenue but on balance it's been
really good fun. The thing I think people will ask, is this a garden or
a landscape? What have you created here? It is a garden, not in the
conventional sense of the garden you'd have round the back of your
town house, where you'd have a table and chairs and a barbecue. But it is
a garden in the way you might have a late and a Himalayan planting. Maybe
as part of a larger garden. I'm sure it would be fun to own and sit in
and enjoy. The Yorkshire landscape, that's what this is all about. It's
here to give a message and show people there is something beautiful
up there and it's worth going to have a look. All the plants and
materials have been sourced locally, and would grow locally? All the
materials were sourced locally right down to the pebbles and sound. Where
are they from? The pebbles are on loan from the beach and they are
going back. The plants are all plants that would grow there because
it is quite unique conditions. They aren't all growing there. The
hedgerow is absolutely beautiful. I love the hedge row, it's one of the
first things to go in. The planting team did an amazing job on that. You
sourced the stone as well from the Abbey, is that right? The stone from
the Abbey is the same sort of stone that would have been used for Whitby
Abbey. We didn't actually take Whitby Abbey apart! I'm glad to
hear! It's very then tick. I can hear the seagulls in the background,
you've got a soundscape. I can smell the salt coming off the seaweed.
Yes, that's been driving in my greenhouse for a few weeks. Thank
you for bringing it here. Here we are, is it finished, are you happy?
It is finished and we are very happy. It's been quite a journey but
we are there. Where you up into the early hours this morning? We had a
few, we were up late last night until about 10pm. We had all the
cars with the headlights shining on the garden. But we got there. Which
isn't what you want to be doing at Chelsea. Not quite but we had a few
hours to spare as we did quite well. Tell us the story of this garden. We
are standing on the Silk Road. Right at the centre of it is the legend,
the city of Chengdu lost the Sun so they sent out four elders to find
the sun. They were immortalised as four birds who now circle the sun.
One of the challenges is it's not just a huge site but you get a 306
degrees view which is the only garden in the showground. That's
right and you can't hide anything behind a boundary, everything is on
view. What we've tried to do here is very the experience as you walk
around. At the back it's quite calm and green. As you approached the
front the colour hits you and we've related the colour to the Silk Road
to give that impact and vibrancy. And flatpack gardens, this is a
flatpack garden, it's supposed to be easy but it's the stuff of divorces,
isn't it? Exactly. It sounded good when we were talking about it but it
actually has been quite difficult. To drop this side of object as a
flatpack garden into place was a challenge but it's worked out.
Almost divorced territory there at any point? No! They were hammering
it in! You both need a well-deserved rest, I think. It's been a long road
to Chengdu. Well, Chris, you've made fractal theory clear. Even I can
understand it now. The whole garden is based on that concept. It's based
on the natural patterns of nature and trying to understand the way
natural patterns relate to gardens, and also where they occur elsewhere.
The understanding of music is an integral part of that. Earlier this
week the National youth Orchestra were performing that peace that has
been written just for this garden. Wasn't it fantastic. I believed
there was an overlap between gardens and music and the vocabulary was
common but there must be something else. Both stimulate the emotions
and Massad the soul. When you put those two things together I wanted
to know if there was an amplification of that effect. If you
are standing here when the orchestra were playing, undoubtedly there was
an amplification. It was wonderful. We've got landscapes, replications
of landscapes but yours is a garden and that's what people want. It's a
garden design show, isn't it? It's a garden which pulls many strands
together. It's about not only getting community and children
involved, whether it's in the artwork or the roof or the school
who are the recipients of the musical stage, the planting goes on
to communities and stimulates community gardens, to particular
gardens in east London. It's about talking about the beauty of
gardening and inspiring people. I love your garden, it's fantastic
this year. As well as James Basson's garden
three others won gold medals. Royal bank of Canada garden with a forest
with mature pine trees, boulders and a burned pavilion. Breaking Ground
garden took inspiration from Heathen planting. Themes of breaking down
barriers to education. The Linklaters garden for Maggies
created a private space behind a hedge to offer relief and beauty to
those offering from cancer. The ultimate for any plant lover at
Chelsea is the Great Pavilion. Every year it sets the gold standard for
horticultural quality. Yes, it's truly one of the wonders of the
gardening world. It has over 100 exhibitors under one roof. That's a
lot of class acts. Who better to be mistress of ceremonies than our very
own Carole Klein. Roll up, roll up. Welcome to the
greatest floral carnival on earth. It's time to perk up your petals,
pump out that perfume, and turn your very best side to the cameras.
It's time to dive into this oceanic display of clematis. Here are wave
after wave of pastal perfection. You can almost hear the sound of the
sea. If you plunge under the surface, you
are swimming alongside a shoal of silvery fish. The creativity in here
is breathtaking. It's out of this world.
Some of the stands in here are on such a scale and they have so much
penache. Rather than walking through a floral display, you feel as though
you are immersed in a fantasy garden.
Just look at this stand. Form, texture, colour. Pure beauty.
It's sublime. No gala performance would be
complete without its superstars. And these aren't just any old orchids.
These are amongst the best in the world from the Eric Young Foundation
inIersy. How lucky we are they've graced us with their presence.
-- Jersey. David objects tin's roses are pure
romance. It's not just their colour that enchants, but these waves of
perfume that waft through the air bringing a whole new dimension to
our experience in the Great Pavilion.
When all the hard work is over and the medals are handed out, it's a
moment of pure magic. It's not all about the gardens. In
the Great Pavilion, all the exhibitors have come in this morning
fighting - biting their nails, they've had a sleepless night
waiting to see what the judges have given them. It's brilliant!
Yeah, got gold. That's the star of the show, isn't it? Have you told
her? I have told her this morning, yes. I talked to them all this
morning. Very happy. We are overjoyed.
Gold! We can breathe now. Yeah. There we
go. Yes, a gold. Well done.
Well done! Thank you, thank you very much.
What have you got? We have got... We have got a silver!
We are over the moon. Oh! I am so excited. I am so happy. You
got a gold? ? I got a gold. So happy! I mean, beyond happy.
Now with 61 gold medals awarded there is a golden glow inside the
pavilion this year. But there is still one very important award yet
to be revealed, the Diamond Jubilee Award given to the best exhibit in
the whole of the pavilion. This year it went to Penwirt plants.
Congratulations, it's a big thing. Biggest of the big. How does it
feel? Over the moon. Fantastic. Lots of tears yesterday morning and every
time people talk about it you think I am going to cry again but I have
been told I am not allowed to again. Any inkling it might come your way?
None whatsoever. You always like to think you have a chance of having to
win a gold. You had to get a gold to get the award? You have to have a
12-point gold, you are not allowed to drop any marks. You are put up on
your panel which were the ornamentals, we were the best of
that. This is perfection in itself? Yeah, well I like to think we are in
the best in the world now. It's tricky because you have a huge range
of plants. . How come you got a wide range of plants? We are representing
the garden we work from in Penberth and we grow all those there, we
specialise in South African plants. Why South African plants? We have
similar conditions. We are in Cornwall, we are at Land's End.
Granite bed rock. We have the air quality. Reflections from the sea.
We can really go for it with South African stuff. Plenty of rain as
well. Yeah. So it's quite wet. Wet and free drainage. As far as the
exhibit it's stunning and you have three different areas and the
visitors can walk through and really get up close to the plants. How does
that work with the two of you? We do a mock-up before the show, this year
it was the main section. When we were trying it, it was too windy to
even do it. Too windy down there. You can only do it, you had to play
it by ear on site? ? We had to wing it really. I didn't want to say
that. Because we know the plants, we propagate everything and we know how
they're going to react together. It's not that it's easy, but we just
know what we are doing with those plants. Yeah. You certainly do.
Congratulations. Thank you. It's absolutely stunning. Thank you.
Thank you. Nice to meet you both. One of the best things about Chelsea
is the passion and enthusiasm you find here. There are hundreds of
expert growers, all of them generous with their advice and thousands of
devoted gardeners from all walks of life. One of them is the actress
Joanna Lumley. It's lovely to see you here. Hello,
thank you. Are you a regular to Chelsea? I am lucky enough to come
most years and most years on a Monday and I love that. The first
time I came I was about 18 and I was staying with my aunt in Earl's
Court. And it was Friday when they sold off the plants in those days,
that was the end of the Chelsea Flower Show and I remember buying a
lily that high in a pot. And not realising I didn't know how to get
back to Earl's Court and I got a lift in an ice-cream van and the
fare he exacted was a kiss. That's the 60s for you! Are you a gardener?
Presumably you wouldn't have been buying plants. And I am a gardener.
We have a long thin garden in Stockwell, the kind people who sold
us the house had divided into three rooms. The first bit people go how
lovely, and my gosh you can go through here and you come to fish
ponds and a pear tree and they go but it goes on and you go down to
the end and there is a walnut tree I planted and I adore it because we
pick our own pears, apples, plums, we have walnuts, I never managed to
get one because the squirrels get there first. Figures. Lemons. I
brought a picture of the lemon crop yesterday. About two kilos of lemon.
Do you keep them outside winter? All winter. I couldn't do that. This is
the heat of London. It's divine, I love it. I should put in here that
it's what I would call a wild garden. It's how I love it. A little
bit, maybe too wild for me. An abandoned garden. Do you love it
because of the way it looks or because of the wildlife it attracts
or what is it? I am very keen on wildlife. Butterflies and insects
and bees. I adore the foxes, I whistle them in if they want to have
supper. We have squirrels, I know, but they are adorably funny to watch
acrobats, birds, birds. So those are all important for me. Rain is
important, when people say it's going to be a bad day, but is it
going to rain, sweet rain. Weather is such an integral part of
gardening. Rather than seeing it as an enemy it is, what is. We were
chatting earlier about, not being old but having more time and more
age and one of the things I have learned is to embrace weather. Yeah.
Not to see it as an enemy. Not to predict how it ought to be be. Take
what comes. And bring with you something so that you are not angry
and cross. If you are going to be frozen, take something in your bag
you can wrap around you or take off. What do you take from Chelsea? Oh...
I just adore it here. I feel that if you didn't have a faith, and you
came to Chelsea and looked at what's here, you would end up believing in
a new God which is nature, the oldest God of all. Thank you very
much indeed. Thanks, Monty. Now Chelsea isn't all about grand
show gardens and vast statement spaces, there is also plenty of
inspiration for the smaller garden as Adam Frost found out.
Gardens seem to be shrinking by the day. For me that doesn't mean you
can't have a beautiful garden. I think there are a load of ideas out
there to make a small space fill a lot bigger.
This really is a small garden. It's actually five metres by seven
metres. There is so much going on. You might look and think I couldn't
do that. And I am not sure I could even do some of the detail in this
garden but there's so many ideas in here that can really help you make
your space feel much bigger. In smaller gardens we tend to forget
that actually we have more space around the garden than we have on
the surface. We accept we have a fence or a wall and if you think
about those boundaries they're partly a design process, point one,
you can make the space feel bigger. Here, the back wall is sort of
wall-to-wall meets green. Here, if you imagine if you wanted an office
at home, by lifting this building up and carrying the garden straight
under all of a sudden proportions feel beautiful. Borrowed landscape.
There is a lovely tree outside of this garden, so if you imagine a
tree in a neighbour's garden, maybe using that colour of that tree or
the leaf of that tree and bringing it into your garden, and you start
to lose your boundaries which makes your garden feel bigger.
I think it's absolutely exquisite. Ultimately this is really a hole in
the ground, a few steps down. Some nice seating. Surrounded by
planting. All of a sudden it changes the atmosphere totally. I am engaged
with the garden, it feels comfortable. My eye at the same
level as plants, grasses are moving and flowers look beautiful. It's a
simple thing to do. This garden plays well with perspective, you
imagine the path closer to the house starts wide and as it comes out into
the garden it gets thinner and thinner. It makes the back wall feel
much further away. Sometimes actually being brave
enough to use a large area of water in a small space can work really
well. It's reflective, it bounces light around the garden. On top of
that, it really gives the sort of garden space to breathe.
What I really love about this space is actually it's really simple. If
you think about it in plant form - planned form it's rectangles and
this change of level slow movement into the space. And it brings you up
on to this big slab that goes out over the water and the water pushes
the planting away and it leaves you with this feeling you have this
really lovely useable space. However small your garden is, there really
is some ideas out there that can make the space feel so much bigger.
There are two competition categories for the smaller gardens at Chelsea,
you have the concept actual fresh gardens that deliver a message for
design and the more traditional art is San gardens. Now, I was lucky
enough to get the opportunity to explore some of these gardens as the
sun set on an empty showground. As the light is falling at us, I am
able to roam around, free. This is where the Artisan gardens are.
They're small but they are packed with ideas and inspiration, and
often just plain beauty. There are essentially two types of gardens
that you find here. One tends to be very naturalistic and uses found
objects and found landscapes. The other is much more creative in the
sense that it is made from new, it looks like nothing you will find in
the countryside. And this is one of the latter, it's by Sarah Ebberley.
It immediately sums up the sun and vitality and colour of Spain.
Despite being the designer's first-ever show garden, the Poetry
Lover's Garden is incredibly confident and strong. It does
nothing particularly original, the planting, the stonework, the way it
set out reminds me of lots of show gardens I've seen. But what it does,
it does so well. The idea is it's a place to come and find inspiration
and retreat, either to read a poem or perhaps even right one. Now, as
the light falls around me, and although the city still baffles
beyond the Park, Chelsea slips into night and I'm just going to have a
few moments to enjoy it to myself. Well, as you can see the Artisan
gardens give designers a chance to create their vision in a tiny space,
often with breathtaking attention to detail. We took a closer look at
some gold winning gardens. Is it a night gold-medal? Thank you very
much! This garden is incredible. You said you wanted to create an Eden
away from the turmoil of the world. Do you think you've been successful?
I'm thinking more like 110%. The incredible thing is, as you walk
around this garden, even at the back of your garden, it's immaculate.
There's more attention to detail at the back of your garden and some
people put at the front. So when I met you before, you were talking
about taking this glass building and shipping it from Japan. You didn't
have a substitute and you were bringing it from the other side of
the world here and I felt so nervous. A single crack and you
don't have a spare. How has that been? You've pulled it off again. I
need to know, this is your 12th time at Chelsea, is there going to be a
13th? Yes Sir! Challenge! LAUGHTER See you next year, with another gold
medal! I hope! I no! This is the seat lip garden designed by
Catherine MacDonald. What a stunning garden it is. I'm especially drawn
to the planting. It's got a perfect balance between lights, ephemeral,
fluffy plants and slightly heavier plants, to balance it together. Two
of my particular favourites are down here. This is totally tangerine. It
has only arrived in the last few years and it such a reliable border
plant. It goes on for about six months and it's really easy to look
after. Of course, it has that beautiful, coppery, orange quality
to the flowers. It pairs fantastically with this fern. Copper
is a binding theme that pulls the whole garden together, not just in
the planting but the hard landscape as well. These copper pipes run all
the way around the garden and create a visual flow. The copper links
these benches at the front and the back of the garden. The idea is they
represent traditional alchemy and modern alchemy. Running through the
top of the two benches are copper rills carrying water which creates
this unity through the whole garden. I think the Seedlip Garden has to be
one of my favourites at Chelsea 2017. Fabulous garden. It looks
great. There are lots of and weeds in here, we do at Chelsea, are you
serious? We are serious. Weeds or wild flowers can be really stunning.
There is an irony as well because you think a lot of weeds are really
difficult to get rid of like docks and dandelions. When you try to get
rid of they persist and went disappear. When you give them a bit
of love and TLC, they show off. They aren't as easy to grow. They will
show off. The horse, he looks good. He's slightly rusted... Absolutely.
The horse has only recently been finished. We are really chuffed with
it, it's taken on that really nice rusty feel. Eventually it will get a
really dark rusty colour. How many horseshoes? There are between 300
and 400 horseshoes. Some of them are donated by the Royal family. It's a
really nice piece and we are chuffed with it. It looks great. What did
Clippy think this garden? He over liked this garden, started munching
around. At one point they said, can we bring Clippy onto the garden,
that can't happen! It looks stunning in this dappled shade. You got a
gold medal, I'm not surprised. I bet the visitors really loved this
garden. Congratulations chaps. Six Artisan gardens got gold this year
but only one of them could be awarded Best Artisan design. I
caught up with the winner. Graham, congratulations. It's the big yet
again, you won it. Two years ago, you got gold and Best In Show but
before that you got a few silver than silvergilt. You've nailed it
now and you know what it takes to get there. Yes, got there in the
end, really pleased with it. You aren't here every year are you? I'm
a biannual Chelsea garden designer. The way you conjure up the
industrial landscape, have you sourced all the bits and pieces in
here? I was fortunate enough to be able to get the crane. My
grandfather bought the crane 40 or 50 years ago. When I went to look at
it it was immersed in nature, branches had grown through it and it
kind of planted the seed of the garden and I germinated it over 18
months. I used the crane throughout the garden. This was all in the
nursery? Yes, in an old swamp area. We used to go down there as kids, I
managed to salvage it in the winter months. It was a bit of a mission.
It's the industrial landscape, it's not just where nature has taken
over, someone has God and displays, haven't they? The brief was that
people are living in warehouse accommodation and have commissioned
a design to build a garden for relaxation. You are celebrating the
heritage because a lot of these wharfs and warehouse blocks have
been converted and often just completely get rid of that landscape
outside. 100%. It would be great to incorporate this sort of thing.
Instead of paving it, to create an atmosphere with this curiosity and
industrial heritage really fits in with the Artisan category, I think.
And you are celebrating conifers, not many people here are. You put
them together so beautifully. Our heritage at the nurseries is growing
pines and conifers. I picked the textural ones that relate to the
material colour, also some are a bit windswept with the prevailing wind
going down the river. They give the garden a bit more depth and height.
You borrowed that landscape beyond, you haven't put a boundary in, it
feels like it goes on. The location was perfect for the garden, because
there is no boundaries. It's like a section of a larger garden so it
works really well. Great to see you and congratulations again. Thank
you. The Fresh Garden category reflects the modern side of garden
design at Chelsea, and this year there were five entries and two gold
medals. Juliette Sargent and Nicki Chapman took a look at the designs
that impressed the judges and visitors alike.
This is the Breast Cancer Now Garden, through the microscope. It's
a garden with a really strong theme. And as we walk through the garden,
we can read the details that the designer Ruth Willmott has
incorporated in order to tell us this really important story. This
garden is all about the transformation from disease to
health. In the front of the garden, these rugged rocks represent
cancerous cells. But further down the garden, as you take a journey,
you come to smooth stones which represent healthy cells. In the
centre of the garden there is a black rectangular pool which
represents the microscope slides that scientists use to study the
cells. These circles represent the microscope that scientists use every
day to research into the cheers and treatments for cancer. The idea of
magnification follows through into the planting itself. Here we have
really fine cut leaves and small flower heads, but as you look down
the garden to the magnified end, the flowers are chunky and the leaves
are big. A good example would be this little flower is mirrored by
the large, bold peonies at that end. But the question on everybody's lips
is why didn't it get a gold. Of course, I don't know for certain,
but I have a theory. Ruth Willmott loves to design conceptual gardens.
Most gardens are either purely conceptual or they are very garden
knee. Whereas Reeve has set herself a challenge in designing something
that falls between, and in doing so she has just missed out on that
elusive top prize. To me, this garden is thoughtful, beautiful and
atmospheric. I think the fact it is incredibly popular with the visitors
speaks for itself. A splash of the Americas has spilled out of the
Great Pavilion and into the gardens this year. With this Fresh Garden
beneath a Mexican sky. Today I think is the perfect date to be viewing
your garden. It absolutely is. When I started designing this garden I
said if the sun shines in its full glory it will be perfect. And what a
day to be standing here with you just admiring it. When you start the
whole process, what were you influenced by? Was it the Mexican
design, or somewhere you've been on holiday? I was actually influenced
by the modernist Mexican architect Louis Barragan. I have Indian
ancestry, born in Kenya, surrounded by beautiful women in gorgeous
saris. Subconsciously it was the colour I was attracted to. That is a
very, very dramatic backdrop. So he was your influence? Absolutely. When
you were designing the garden, what did you have in mind? The blue sky
today shows of the colours so well. How difficult is it to recreate that
planting or did you just take elements of it? Part of the planting
scheme was to show Louis Barragan's life. He struggled to become a
recognised architect. I also wanted to introduce plants that people can
take home and grow themselves as well. There are a number of plants
in the garden that people can take home, and actually using their own
gardens. I have an enormous agave in my garden, I didn't think it would
grow that large but it is huge. They are pinpointed around the garden.
What is that tree behind us? That tree is commonly known as the
strawberry tree. It's gorgeous because when the first layer of skin
peels off you get this lovely orange streaking on the branches and it's
absolutely gorgeous and will survive in this country. The architectural
structures and the cacti really works, doesn't it? It definitely
does. There's a whole hierarchy in this garden where you've got the
trees, the specimen plants, then you've got this lovely, soft
planting that weaves through all the lovely structure. It works perfectly
well. The bursts of colour through the Greens and the greys. It
certainly works and congratulations on your silvergilt medal yesterday.
Your face said it all. The sun is shining, it's going to be a trend is
weak. We are loving your garden. Whilst the Main Avenue show gardens
gather all the attention, most of it, the smaller gardens of all the
different types are just as interesting for me, both in the way
that they use their plants and in the details of design.
This is a great example. It's only a small footprint but it's a
combination of architecture and garden that I really love. Upstairs
we have a high rise garden and down here a low rise garden in the shade.
All the materials have been beautifully thought about. The views
have been framed. It really feels like a very cohesive design and a
great example of what you can do in your own space. Here is a nice crisp
boxed hedging and yew hedging and into this lush shady environment.
These plants don't get much sun, they don't get much rain. We still
have this wonderful textural foliage of plants like the tree ferns and
the gingers. I like this rusty metal work that ties in with the detailing
on the steps and it shows you can grow plants in the city in an urban
environment, plants should always come first. Don't you think? They
should. The way they're worked together with the design should be
seamless and it works here. It's a lovely garden. I think it's going to
be one of those gardens, there are always a handful at Chelsea, that
gets better and better every time you look at it.
This year, the RHS introduced a new type of garden at Chelsea. These
weren't judged but were created to inspire visitors and to celebrate
Radio 2's 50th birthday. Each of these five feel-good gardens had a
presenter as its champion and focussed on one of the five senses.
This garden is for your eyes and boy is it a celebration. The colour is
just exploding out. But not in a chaotic random way, in the most
extraordinary controlled celebration and triumph and march of every
colour. It's wonderful. Thank you. I love it. Everybody else is loving
it. It's a good job you do too. One of the things that's interesting is
everybody is saying, not just it looks nice, but it's a garden. It's
a garden they feel they could have at home, could you? It really is a
garden. I have noticed today is that we planted ten days ago, it was at
the height of the Silver Birch frame and all those poppies and sunflowers
have crowded it now. Things are really growing. Are they planted in
the ground or in pots? A lot are in pots. But still growing. Obviously
it's incredibly carefully constructed. But could people do
this at home, is it possible or do you take the idea and a couple of
colour combinations or could you create something as rich as this
that's sustainable? You can. A lot are self-seeding. There is a
structure. And some roses. There are bedding areas that will be changed
every year. You can bed out. I have beds like this at home. They will
give you a succession because if you cut them it's like dead heading.
It's live heading. You have colour outside and you are replenishing it
by bringing it inside. That's the key difference to most perennials.
You can't really do much in shade, can you, you are limited? You
definitely are. There are some things, we have a shady zone here.
You are more restricted because annuals make food from the sun and
it's like putting them on a starvation diet if you put them in
the shade. One thing I know some people have raised is that annuals
and particularly some of the most popular ones have flower heads that
are very busy and not so good for pollenators, is it possible to
balance having lots of wildlife and this amount of colour? It genuinely
is. You want to look for ones that you can see the centre of the
flower. This is perfect, it's why they're so busy. The poppies, they
go for the pollen, the bees, not the nectar there. Things like this
beautiful single dahlia which is elaborate, but if you watch the bees
are feasting on the centre of the flower. They aren't contradictory at
all. We are all feasting on the colour. It's lovely. It's a triumph.
Thank you very much for bringing it to Chelsea. Well, it's been really
good fun. Good. James, welcome back to Chelsea. How
long has it been? It's been 18 years. Probably when you were still
at school. I remember some of the gardens you have done in the past,
it's wonderful to see you back. This is so brave and different. Tell me
about it. Well, the idea is it's a science garden. How do you get sound
into gardens and either you play loud music which we can't do at
Chelsea because it will scare the horses or you have whispering
grasses that nobody will hear. So the idea was to bring in something
new. The other thing about Chelsea is it's there to do new and exciting
things. We are standing in a woodland glade with rather soft
lovely wavy wood land planting around it. Then you start to look
closer and it's actually in the quite what you expected. I love
that. There's so much more to this garden than initially meets the eye.
I describe them as Easter eggs in design terms, you think you get it
and you suddenly notice something. Tell me about the ripples through
the water. There are speakers in them. That's where the sound comes
from. If you play certain frequents of sound through water it makes
different patterns. It's all been programmed by some very clever young
sound artists, so each speaker does a different thing. Some are
flickering across the surface and some are booming and loud. It's
about taking the bass out. Now it's playing... It's doing weird things.
I notice there is bits that look almost like Jack Frost painting live
over the surface and some look like fish jumping up and down, it's
dramatic. To turn sound into a visual form is something I have
never seen before. It's fun. It's the only way you can do it, because
essentially what we are doing here creating a show is it's a visual
spectacle. We have to try and make sound something you can see and we
have a strip of gravel on the front the visitor will be able to put
their foot on and there is a vibration that travels up your leg.
The idea is if you go to a concert and stand too close to a speaker you
feel the music. My misspent youth, I remember that. Here you are feeling
it and seeing it but you can't hear it. But it's there. You can roughly
hear it, just, it's quite low. Then you see it and on top of that the
planting is spectacular. Talk about a study in the calming effect of
green. I have an amazing planting team that were helping me. As you
know with Chelsea, it's not just one person. It's a whole load of people.
I had very talented sound artists who helped with the speakers and
amazing planting team who helped to put this vision together. The brief
was create a slightly sinister woodland. The time you have been
able to do it, it's spectacular. The one garden I would see at Chelsea,
it's this one. Thank you very much, that's sweet of you. With Jon
Wheatley in his taste garden. This celebrates everything I love about
gardening, it's something about the joy of it. I love the way that here
we are at Chelsea, it's not trying to pretend it is anything else, it's
a veg plot. That's right. It's my passion, as well. What is lovely is
the colours and forms and shapes and textures of of these plants and you
can eat them. You are a master, you were telling me you won over 20 gold
medals. Why have you chosen the pattern you have, a lot of brassicas
on that side. What I am intrigued by is that there is a mixture of old
and new here. There is some very new, some interesting plants from
China. The pak-choi and Chinese cabbage. We have done traditional
old style lettuce and new ones and the texture and form as well as the
taste of these plants is one of the things that we tried to demonstrate
in the garden. I was thinking that olives, 20, 30 years ago if you saw
an olive at Chelsea it was under canvas, or exotic thing, a
Mediterranean plant. Yes, it was. We can grow these now. Climate has
changed. I know that a lot are grown under glass, as well. One of the
other things we have tried to do is not only look at the foliage and the
root but also at the flowers. The pea flowers, and we have gone
worldwide to research most of the work in here. Well, I know you have
only had a short time, how long did you have to prepare? About 11 weeks.
What was the toughest thing getting this ready in 11 weeks? Toughest
thing was for my colleague who must take the credit for growing these
fantastic vegetables, Terry Porter, to get them all to this pristine
condition. What's been interesting is the public response and the
passion that people have shown standing out on the edge of the
garden. Is that young and old or old people like me who are used to it? I
suppose both of us are of an age. But my passion is to get young
people involved. Also the 30 and 40-year-olds that have small
patches. They're going to come here and are going to love it and
hopefully they'll go home and will grow some veg and will never stop.
It's a brilliant garden, thank you so much. Thank you.
The feel-good gardens were a great success. And a welcome addition to
this year's Chelsea because there were only eight show gardens,
instead of last year's 17. I caught up with Sue Biggs to find out how
the week had gone and what she's planning next.
Now, Sue, we are coming to the end of the week, which to be honest at
the beginning some of us were feeling, not anxious about, but we
knew it was going to shall a different week because the show is
different. Yes, it is. How has it gone? It's gone brilliantly. The
atmosphere on the show this year has been absolutely extraordinary. The
weather, of course, has helped massively. Yeah. Couldn't have been
better really. No, couldn't. But all the energy and the passion and the
innovation here at this show, whether in the pavilion with the
nurserymen or the gardens outside, all the different categories,
especially the feel-good gardens and the beautiful artisan and one of the
gorgeous Main Avenue gardens. Why do you think that is? What's great
sometimes when you have a problem that you have to overcome it does
spur on an innovation and new way of thinking about things and there's
new categories as a result of this, more space has arisen in the ground
that is easier for people to sit down and just stand and stare. It's
great with horticultural too, rather than constantly on the move. Now
what's next up? On 7th June this year we have the first ever
Chatsworth flower Show, up in the East Midlands in Derbyshire, it's
going to be the most amazing show, I think. What will make that show
special other than the location? The location of course on the day, the
house in the background, it couldn't be a better setting but the real
theme of the show is design revolutionaries and what we have
tried to do is take a step away from all the other shows, they're all
different in their own wonderful ways, and there are gardens for
example lieshg the free form gardens where there are no rules. We have
show gardens up there, so some from here, but some is the most
beautiful, the conservatory there, collapsed 100 years ago, we rebuilt
it for the show. It sounds intriguing. We have had a great week
at Chelsea. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Well, it has certainly been an extraordinary week. I think it's
been a very good show, don't you? It's been a strong year, no doubt.
What did you like best? I liked the feel-good gardens. Great quality,
great range. I think Sarah's stunning. They have been 100%
success. One thing I could take it would be Darren's gate. I agree. I
love that gate. It's got my name on it, you can't have it! Really. He
can make another one maybe. What about you? I got great pleasure from
the boat garden. That's just about it from us at Chelsea. I will be
back on Gardens World next Friday in the usual slot and I have a preview
of RHS Chatsworth and Joe will be there and we will be at Hampton
Court in July. Until then, goodbye.
Monty Don and Joe Swift look back at the highlights of their week at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.