The Chelsea Flower Show

Artisan Charm at Chelsea

In May through to July our horticultural appetites are indulged by the two dominant flower shows in England, and the first is the subject of this week’s editorial – the Chelsea Flower Show.

However, rather than attempt a complete synopsis of something so grand and overwhelming, I’ve decided instead to focus on a new addition to the event’s proceedings. Setting a precedent this year is the introduction of the ‘Artisan’ design category. The term originates with the pre-industrial era and the consequent production of decorative commercial goods by the individual, rather than corporations. 

image of Basildon Bond garden

One such product was stationery and homage to one of its original producers, Basildon Bond, serves as the theme of one of my six selections from Chelsea. The materials of the garden reflect its designer’s tribute to Bond with an authentically realised replica of the clock rumoured to hang in the managers cottage at Apsley Mill. Complementing this, William Quarmby, of Quarmby Landscaping and Design, has coated the walls with weather proof paper. However the real star of the garden is the Acer griseum planted back stage centre, neatly pinning its centre piece – a pair of seats and desk, to the context of the joys of stationery.

image of Hae-woo-so garden

Speaking of seating, it has been a time honoured philosophy in Korea that time spent in the toilet be one of reflection and relaxation, Jihae Hwang has composed the plant list of his ‘Hae-woo-so’ garden accordingly, with a predominantly neutral and calming colour scheme of shades of greens and yellows, designed to help to ‘empty one’s mind’ as one progresses to the garden path’s conclusion.

image of Welcome to Yorkshire garden

Half a world away, yet within walking distance, from Hwang’s East Asian philosophies, there lies the Yorkshire landscape as embodied in the three respective depths of field inherent to the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ garden’s lay out. Square paving with grassy division represent Yorkshire’s endless fields, followed by its moors here embodied with meadow flowers, and finally a pair of curved stone walls play the part of its rolling dales. Citing inspiration from the areas most famous artists, i.e. David Hockney, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth etc, it  also includes one of Hepworth’s own sculptures, ‘Ascending Form’.

The next two entries are somewhat more prosaic as they strive to entertain and to relax rather than inspire. Both cater to children which immediately raises connotations of simplicity, however they should not be dismissed so readily.

image of Fever Tree drinks' garden

The first, a Steve Hall design, is intended as a living recipe book to the Fever Tree drinks company and thus utilises many of the species used in their products, in particular, the recycled timber of Cinchona calisaya that contributed to the tree house’s construction.

image of 1940's Children's garden

The second, designed by Ysgol Bryn Castell and Heronbridge Scool Horticultural Students with Anthea Guthrie, is an attempt to recreate the children’s garden of the late 1940s, including some of the toys typical of that generation i.e. hobby horses and a silver cross pram.

image of Antiquated Welsh garden

Then there is the realisation of antiquated Welsh sensibility, designed by Katie Crome and Maggie Hughes. It contains rustic architecture and simple design to successfully evoke the simplicity of life away from the metropolis. Including a classically schemed blue and white stone shack and simple planting scheme, localising it to any of a thousand windy beach fronts, it is a postcard indeed.

image of Poet's Retreat garden

Finally, Martin Cook’s and Bonnie Davis’ entry is designed somewhat paradoxically. While it serves a function, in that it was intended as a poet’s retreat, its planting scheme is unstructured to the point of wilderness, so its practicality is undermined by the very art it encourages with verse and quotation carved into its foundations and features. It is this reporter’s opinion that such disorder is necessary to inspire any original thought, and that from such chaos perhaps the design pair will stimulate your own creativity.

By Josh Ellison

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