It was a joy to be back at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show again this year, surveying it from the fabulous high vantage point of a Blue Forest treehouse on Main Avenue. Thanks to Blue Forest, Artisans of Devizes,whose stone we used, Smits Nurseries who lent us the hedges and John Cullen who provided the lighting, we were awarded Five Stars so I’d like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all our collaborators.
We were able to give the public a rare chance to visit Blue Forest’s first accommodation treehouse to be exhibited at the show – several guests to our stand were astonished to find a luxurious bedroom and bathroom, reminiscent of five-star safari accommodation. Now the show’s ended, the treehouse will be transported to its new home at Fairmont Windsor Park, the spa and wellness hotel that Blue Forest collaborated with to create the treehouse.
The show was spectacular this year and there were several stands I think really deserve a mention as they will continue to inspire me and anyone who saw them for years to come:
Chris Beardshaw was commissioned to design this garden, which won his design company a well-deserved 14th Gold Medal. The scale of the planting was astonishing, set off by two towering, specially commissioned terracotta urns, which seemed to float above the varying heights of artichoke and fennel in the landscape. Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire created the two urns, the design of which nods to the RNLI’s 18th Century Georgian roots while signalling the constant technological advances it makes. The beautiful Eryngiun maritimum, or sea holly, motifs were hand-carved before being moulded onto the urns and the teamwork alone that went into these stunning urns was worthy of an award.
All the plants came from Kelways in Somerset and planting was designed to echo the ‘unassuming but together extraordinary’ RNLI volunteers. One such example of this was an multi-stemmed hornbeam tree which had had a stone wedged in the middle to train and spread the branches outwards. At first sight it looked unassuming but on closer inspection the stone had been delicately etched with a leaf pattern and it was quite extraordinary the way the trunk was growing around it. This was something unique that I’d never seen before and making new discoveries is what I love about being at Chelsea.
The Perennial ‘with Love’ Garden
This garden represented a collaboration between Richard Miers Garden Design and the charity Perennial, the only UK charity, now 183 years old, which helps horticulturalists in need. Inspired by the notion that a garden is a gift of love, it was marked out by a water feature and rills, specially created love seats and sculpture and a neon display with a quote attributed to the great poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘If I had a flower for every time I thought of you’. It was so popular it won the People’s Choice Award, cocking a snook at the judges’ award of a Silver Medal when the gorgeous garden obviously deserved a Gold. I was really taken with an abstract bronze revolving sculpture Dancers by Jack Eagan. Its intricate but clean intertwining of elegant shapes echoed the garden’s loving theme. I always encourage a talking point in any garden and this sculpture is exquisite and the base is even uplit for impact at night.
Garden Designer Ann-Marie Powell designed the garden for one of my favourite outdoor furniture designer’s stands. Gaze Burvill’s oak Woodland Collection is superb and Ann-Marie has cleverly conjured up a magical dell for these two lovely benches which curve around and enclose the decking like a secret fairy glade. Every twist and motif in a Gaze Burvill piece of furniture is beautifully wrought and built to last. The impression of an intimate secret garden was enhanced by a rare, espaliered fig tree behind the bench on the left, and a client was so impressed by the garden overall that he bought both benches and the espaliered fig.
I was also impressed by the latest portable DeliVita pizza oven on their stand, which was being put to use by chef Joe Formisano.
Regular visitors to my website or Instagram will know what a fan I am of director Guy Ritchie’s Wildkitchens. Just as Blue Forest has given us the Rolls-Royce of tree houses, so Cashmere Caveman has come up with a game-changing concept that’s revolutionising al fresco dining, allowing us to cook while staying warm, dry and comfortable. The beauties of a Wildkitchen are manifold. It comes in three sizes, oven and lights operate from a car battery and the structure is reassuringly manual, more akin to a sailing boat than a complicated mod con. Every detail has been thought through from the hanging ‘Wildhalo’ above the firebox to a ‘skilt’ under the table to keep legs warm. The stand deservedly won Best in Show for Trade Exhibits.