The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 – Robots, Rabbits And A Splash of Red Wine By Hannah Norman
Last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show centenary saw creative colours, mythical creatures, gnomes and fabulous planting. A difficult act to follow!
This year, however, certainly didn’t disappoint. Imagination and flair were everywhere. The trend this year included tiered gardens and the Best Fresh Garden winner, the RNIB’s Mind’s Eye Garden, and also Bord Na Mona UK’s Vital Earth The Night Sky Garden, both employed tiers in order to give
another dimension to their gardens. The central focus of The Mind’s Eye was a clever infinity box, strategically positioned within the confines of a water wall. Apparently only a few feet deep, when
viewed from the tier - due to the clever interaction of lights and mirrors - the box looked several metres deep, thus challenging the sighted viewer by distorting the image they would have expected to see.
Vital Earth The Night Sky, meanwhile, designed by David Rich (at just twenty-three, one of the youngest designers to have presented a show at Chelsea), encompassed a viewing platform complete with telescope, perfect for a spot of star-gazing. The theme continued across the garden below, with the serpentine stone walls outlining simple constellations, and protruding boulders reflective of fallen meteors. The garden’s two pools were symbolic of black holes.
One of our favourite gardens this year was the Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden, designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam from Wilson McWilliam Studio. Charred oak panels symbolised the barrels used during the fermenting process, whilst the vibrant hue of the planting – looking for all the world like someone had expertly thrown a glass of Merlot across the garden - was symbolic of the blackcurrant and raspberry flavours of the wine. So no surprise raspberries featured in the planting. McWilliam was rightfully optimistic about the garden’s chances with the judges, and the team were rewarded for their efforts with a silver-gilt medal. “People have wanted to linger in the garden,” he told me, “and the response we’ve had has been fantastic.”
As ever at Chelsea, several British TV personalities were out in force to soak up the sun and enjoy the gardens. We spied a busy Ben Fogle, fresh from the London Pet Show the day before, having a look at the Laurent-Perrier Garden, the Best Show Garden winner. Stephen Fry, meanwhile, was in the No Man’s Land Garden, designed to mark the centenary of World War One, by highlighting the battle scars of the Somme landscape and how, despite these scars, the land has been able to regenerate. War was a feature of another garden, and we spied Ross Kemp in the Hope On The Horizon Garden, a contemplative space for injured servicemen and women designed to support the charity Help For Heroes.
Meanwhile, Lily Cole posed for pictures in House of Faser’s Fabric Garden, designed to challenge perceptions of what can be used outdoors, hence the traditional living room setting – but in an outdoor environment.
It wasn’t all celebrities, however. Stoke-On-Trent City Council Partnership’s garden, Positively Stoke-On-Trent, was designed to emphasise the city’s regeneration and focus on the natural world, with an impressive moving water structure consisting of two stainless steel arches, to represent sustainable energy, and vibrant planting was reflective of a flow of energy. Helping to promote the garden was a seven foot robot named Titan, who, despite relaying positive messages about Stoke-On-Trent, then became a little enamoured with our photographer - we took that as our cue to beat a somewhat hasty retreat!
Hooksgreen Herbs in The Great Pavilion had help on hand from Peter Rabbit, with their Herb Garden attracting a lot of attention - not least (if you know your Beatrix Potter) due to Mr. McGregor¹s iconic scarecrow featuring Peter¹s discarded coat and shoes.
Speaking of iconic, Gucci made their RHS debut this year with Flora, their entry in the Fresh Garden category. Since the Gucci Flora motif was first designed back in 1966 in homage to Grace Kelly (then Princess of Monaco), it has become one of the Italian fashion house’s most recognisable icons, and the same principles of creativity and quality have been exemplified within designer Sarah Eberle’s garden. That self same quality was recognised by the judges, as they were awarded a Silver-gilt medal.
It wasn’t only the garden designers going all out this year. Outdoor furniture makers Gaze Burvill, at Chelsea for the 21st time, had employed the talents of Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist Tom Hoblyn to create a garden scene reminiscent of the rolling Hampshire countryside, and the very essence of an English country garden. With native grasses, flowers and masonry, the display was offset by a bountiful oak, the signature resource used in all their steam-bent furniture.
So whatever your plans for the months ahead, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has certainly provided us with a bit of inspiration when it comes to luxury garden landscaping. On that note, we’re off to sit in the sun!
Winners of The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014
Best Show Garden: Luciano Giubbilei’s Laurent-Perrier Garden
Best Fresh Garden: LDC Design’s The Mind’s Eye Garden
Best Artisan Garden: Kazuyuki Ishihara Design Laboratory’s Togenkyo – A Paradise on Earth Garden