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Chelsea 2012 – The People’s Champions

Following on from last week’s update on this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, we wanted to include a piece concerning your, the ‘people’s’, choice winners. Every year the Royal Horticultural Society awards two designers with this auspicious title based on the many thousands of votes they receive from the public. The people’s choice award is unique in the Chelsea flower show for being the accolade with an external adjudication process.

This has been something of a watershed year for the People’s Choice due to the sheer volume of involvement from voters – opinions were received in their tens of thousands and were eventually whittled down to two finalists. The winners of this year’s People’s Choice awards were the Arthritis Research UK Garden (Show gardens), as designed by Mr. Tom Hoblyn, and The Bronte’s’ Yorkshire Garden (Small gardens), that was devised by Ms. Tracy Foster.

picture of Arthritis Research UK Garden

Hoblyn states that the genesis for his design can be found in the court gardens of renaissance Europe, specifically Villa Lante and Villa d’Este, and that these were the motivation behind the space’s uniformity and the strict division of colours to be found between its abundance of white marble paving and its emerald hedges. This segregation is also signified by the diverse use of water and also of its Mediterranean planting scheme – particularly the cypress trees –  which lend a dramatic height to the space. The project was initiated by the charity as a means to celebrate its 75th anniversary, however, Hoblyn’s garden is not only inspired by arthritis, but its design is catered to the condition itself and particularly to would-be horticulturalists who feel too inhibited by the condition to cultivate a garden.

picture of Arthritis UK Garden 2

The marble walkways for example, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, also play the crucial role of providing a solid and even surface that can easily be traversed by the wheelchair-bound or to those who feel unstable on rough ground. These paths, however, act only as conduits to the beds of the garden and, to ensure the minimal amount of stretching and precarious balance, Hoblyn recommends using exclusively raised beds and to tailor the width, to guarantee they’ll be accessible from both sides, and also the height, to coincide within your own.

picture of Brontes Yorkshire Garden

Tracy Foster’s people’s choice entrant took a decidedly more traditional tone, although one quality the two winners shared was the celebratory impetus that stemmed from the anniversaries each was commemorating. In Ms. Foster’s case it was the 165th anniversary of one of the most successful publishing years for the titular sisters and, as such, the garden’s planting scheme and layout were largely inspired by the Yorkshire countryside that plays such a crucial role in the Brontes’ fiction. 

picture of cobbles and stream in Brontes Yorkshire Garden

Accordingly, the garden places a heavy focus on naturalism, which is evoked by its cobblestone paths and the roughly trod stream that divides it.

Of course, you may not have voted for these particular gardens, or at all, but it’s easy to see why they were so popular and why they clinched these awards.

By Josh Ellison

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