Preparing for Chelsea

Posted: Thursday 8 March 2012
by Andy Sturgeon

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is just around the corner and you wouldn’t believe how my head is whirring at the moment.

Drawing of Andy Sturgeon's garden for Chelsea 2012

Where to start? The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is just around the corner and you wouldn’t believe how my head is whirring at the moment. It’s a mess in there.

In this new weekly blog I’ll be writing about the contemporary garden I’ve designed for M&G Investments. The design is based on Arts and Crafts Movement principles, with implied garden ‘rooms’. Think of the hedged spaces around the house at Hidcote, and the formal, Italianate, stone terracing and pools evident in many Arts and Crafts gardens, but especially favoured by Jekyll and Lutyens.

However, I’ve looked beyond just the Arts and Crafts gardens, and picked up on the oak that featured in the architecture and furniture. I’ve also designed a huge snaking copper sculpture, inspired by the jewellery that was an important, but often overlooked part of the movement.

But this garden is no pastiche, and I worry that when visitors pitch up at the show expecting to find Sissinghurst, they will think I’ve been at the sauce. I’ve termed the overall style the ‘New English Garden’, and I hope the planting will look original, even though it contains plenty of familiar cottage and country garden favourites.

I’m using the planting to soften, and therefore contrast with the hard lines of the built elements, another idea which I’ve directly lifted. This planting style I’m describing as ‘woodland edge’, and it is fairly natural as the Arts and Crafts concept dictates.

The chosen plants will all thrive in partial shade, which basically means that they will receive some sun, and some shade, each day, but never be in deep shade or full sun. I’ve also assumed the soil is damp and I have therefore taken the liberty of imagining the perfect growing conditions. If anyone has such a garden I want it.

And so here is a garden that contains all the things I can’t grow in my dry, shady, Brighton plot. One of the most frustrating plants for me at home has been the humble Iris sibirica - so just to be on the safe side for Chelsea I am growing 500 of the variety ‘Tropic Night’. There are some plants you just can’t live without.

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Talkback: Preparing for Chelsea
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step 11/03/2012 at 20:47

Just up the road from you in Hassocks I think we have pretty well perfect conditions - the thick wealden clay is relatively easy to improve and it stays nice and damp at the bottom of the garden by the stream. The trees provide shade that sweeps across the garden. Problem is that the slugs find the conditions perfect too.

Even so I'm guessing your Chelsea garden will be far more perfect than ours will ever aspire to be. I would love to know more about your colour theme - is pink to be allowed back through the hallowed gates at Chelsea?