Chelsea garden gets a new sky-high home

Cotswold designer Chris Beardshaw’s award-winning Chelsea garden is being given a helping hand by the BBC DIY SOS team this week.

The garden, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley for Great Ormond Street Hospital, has been transported across London and rebuilt as a roof-top garden at the world famous children’s hospital.

DIY SOS Big Build on BBC 1 tomorrow will see Nick Knowles and his team use cranes to take the garden in over buildings before reassembling it for use by patients and their families.

“It’s bringing new life into the heart of the hospital,” explained Chris earlier this year.

Chris Beardshaw
Chris Beardshaw on the garden at Chelsea

The design of the garden was dictated by the location, which is almost entirely shaded by surrounding buildings.

To cope with these conditions, Chris has created a woodland garden with a top storey of trees, including acers and liriodendron. A light-weight growing medium and sophisticated anchoring techniques will ensure they don’t move in the wind or prove too heavy for the roof. The trees will also be coppiced to keep them small.

Rather than his trademark herbaceous, Chris planted this garden with a mix of shade-lovers, such as ferns and epimedium, with seasonal colour coming from Cornus kousa and C. mas and an emphasis on texture.

At the heart of the original garden at Chelsea was a reflective water feature, but this has been replaced by more planting but the Japanese-style pavilion is still a main element, offering shelter and seclusion.

Chris Beardshaw
Chris Beardshaw with the DIY SOS team

Great Ormond Street treats children with complex conditions, such as rare heart disease and skin disorders. The garden is designed to provide a place for families to relax and escape from the bustle of the hospital.

“It’s a role that at the moment is missing through much of the hospital,” said Chris. A space in which we can sit and relax, contemplate and perhaps find a new perspective.”

The garden was given a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, one of a number of top RHS awards Chris has won, including gold in 2015 for a garden that has been relocated as a community space in Poplar, London.

DIY SOS Big Build will be shown on BBC1 at 8pm on Thursday November 10.

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Chelsea Flower Show: rocks and reflections

Chelsea is all about rocks and colour this year. Stone features on many of the gardens and there are vibrant, paintbox shades in every part of the Great Pavilion.

Cleve West’s celebration of the rugged landscape of Exmoor manages to combine huge pieces of Forest of Dean stone with soft, easy-on-the-eye planting without making either look out of place.

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Rocks on Cleve West’s M&G garden have a sense of permanence

Rosy Hardy has circular gabions filled with stone that mimic a dry chalk steam bed; Hugo Bugg creates bold geometric shapes in shades of black and grey; and in the Fresh gardens, Propagating Dan has balanced a five-tonne boulder on the roof of a pavilion in ‘The Garden of Potential’.

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Stone is in evidence across the show

A talking point among visitors though is Diarmuid Gavin’s nod to British eccentricity. The strains of ‘In an English Country’ garden float over the show as window boxes go up and down, topiary twirls and plants process around the garden’s house. It ticks few boxes in terms of inspiration for home gardeners but as a spectacle it is unbeatable and won silver-gilt.

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Not content with bells and whistles, Diarmuid Gavin had musicians on his garden

In the Great Pavilion, Marks and Spencer introduces a carnival atmosphere with vibrant blocks of colour in a display that is high on impact.

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The startling M&S garden won gold

Heucheraholics are bringing a sense of fun to the humble garden shed, repainted in primary shades and festooned with heucheras, there are hyacinths and tulips in lipstick shades, and the New Covent Garden Flower Market has a nod to the Queen’s birthday with a display that combines cool green and white on one side with 3D colour on the other.

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The cool side of The New Covent Garden display
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The other side of the flower market’s display

And this year, the usual splashes of scarlet from the Chelsea pensioners are dwarfed by the great swathe red poppies in front of the Royal Hospital.

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Just some of the thousands of poppies remembering commemorating fallen soldiers

It’s been a different Chelsea: the sun shone – a welcome relief after last year’s deluge; press day was quieter due to fewer passes being issued; the Main Avenue gardens showed a welcome individuality. What hasn’t changed is the buzz around the showground and the crowds pouring in as soon as the gates opened this morning.

Key results and the Cotswolds 

Best show garden: The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon

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Chris on his gold garden

Cheltenham’s Chris Beardshaw added to his gold medal tally with his garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital, sponsored by M&G. Peter Dowle saw the garden he built for L’Occitane win gold, while Lichen Antiques supplied the Forest of Dean stone for Cleve West’s gold medal-winning garden and Westmorland stone for the Royal Bank of Canada Garden, which got silver-gilt. Avening sculptor Giles Rayner supplied a water feature for The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, which won silver-gilt.

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Peter Dowle in a tiny piece of France transported to London

South Gloucestershire herb queen Jekka McVicar got silver-gilt with her first show garden and the Meningitis Now Futures Garden for the Stroud charity won silver-gilt in the Artisan Garden awards.

For a round-up of the Cotswolds’ input into the Chelsea Flower Show see here

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Florist Katherine Kear was dressed for the part

In the Great Pavilion, Gloucester florist Katherine Kear led her team of florists from the Three Counties and South Wales to gold medal victory. Their display for the National Federation of Flower Arrangement Societies showed the influence of the Victorians on gardening. More details here

Here are some of my snapshots of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

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Rosy Hardy’s first show garden won silver
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Plants from Raymond Blanc’s kitchen garden were used in the hospitality village
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Jo Thompson’s Chelsea Barracks Garden was wrapped around a lawn – rarely seen at Chelsea
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Jekka McVicar’s Modern Apothecary garden
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Colour is everywhere at Chelsea
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One of two striking sculptures on Chris Beardshaw’s garden
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Detail on the NAFAS display
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Naturalistic planting on the L’Occitane garden
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I loved this lavender ‘With Love’ on Downderry Nursery’s stand

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Chelsea plans unveiled

An 80ft train carriage, a new centrepiece in the Great Pavilion and an eccentric design by Diarmuid Gavin are among the highlights for Chelsea 2016 unveiled by the RHS this week.

The world famous flower show will also feature plantswoman Rosy Hardy’s debut in show gardening with a design highlighting the threat to chalk streams, and the return of Chelsea favourite Cleve West, whose M&G garden is inspired by Exmoor and uses stone quarried from the Forest of Dean.

Likely to be the talk of the show is Diarmuid Gavin’s ‘The British Eccentrics Garden’ for Harrods, which will ‘perform’ every 15 minutes with rotating topiary, bobbing box balls and patio furniture that rises out of a trapdoor.

More traditional is the creation of Cheltenham designer Chris Beardshaw, who is celebrating the work of Great Ormond Street Hospital with a garden sponsored by Morgan Stanley. Featuring reflective water and a Japanese-inspired main structure, it will be rebuilt at the children’s hospital after the show.

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Chris Beardshaw on his 2015 gold medal-winning garden

Meanwhile, L’Occitane will be hoping to repeat its gold medal success with the partnership of designer James Basson and landscaper Peter Dowle, who is based near Ruardean. They will be depicting the landscape of Haute Provence to mark the beauty firm’s 40th anniversary.

Peter Dowle
Peter Dowle is building the L’Occitane Garden

Stroud-based charity Meningitis Now is also looking back to its founding 30 years ago but also forward with a garden in the Artisan category that highlights its work saving lives and rebuilding futures.

And there will be a new look to the Great Pavilion where the central monument site, dominated by Hillier Nurseries’ stand for many years, will now be home to an exhibit by hosta and fern specialists Bowdens. The Devon-based nursery is planting up a station with a 1920s Belmond British Pullman carriage as the centrepiece.

More gardens will be confirmed in the next few weeks.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 runs from May 24-28. RHS members’ tickets are on sale now, public tickets go on sale on December 1.