RHS Chelsea

Brewin Dolphin at RHS Chelsea 2017

After five successful show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, this year Brewin Dolphin moved into the Great Pavilion, supporting a display by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.

The display marked plantswoman Rosy Hardy’s 25th year of exhibiting at RHS Chelsea and followed her Show Garden debut last year designing the Brewin Dolphin Forever Freefolk garden. We were delighted to see Rosy awarded her 22nd Gold Medal for the exhibit which included a beautiful display of herbaceous perennials in a landscape setting.

Plants included seasonal favourites: geraniums, ferns and grasses and a hosta that has featured in every one of Rosy’s RHS Chelsea displays since she arrived at the show in 1992.

Chelsea Flower Show Archive

The Chelsea Flower Show is the premium UK gardening event and something Brewin Dolphin has become synonymous with, 2016 will be the fifth consecutive year that Brewin Dolphin will have a Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016

The Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2016 was designed by Rosy Hardy, one of the UK’s leading plant nursery owners and renowned for her stunning displays of herbaceous perennials at shows the length and breadth of the country.

Rosy is the most decorated female exhibitor in the history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. She has 21 RHS Gold medals, more than the ‘Queen of Herbs’ Jekka McVicar and the Doyenne of British gardening, Beth Chatto.

Rosy was supported by landscape team Bowles & Wyer, who Brewin Dolphin has worked with on previous gardens.

The garden invited visitors to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource. There are around 200 chalk streams in the world, under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England - one of the best examples is the River Test, which flows through Freefolk Hampshire, neighbouring Hardy’s cottage nursery.

Rosy’s aim was for the garden to challenge, engage and encourage visitors to recognise the fragility and unique nature of these English chalk streams.

The garden was designed to be a sensual, accessible and a thought provoking educational experience - showcasing more than one brand new plant introduction and some breathtakingly beautiful features. Several planting zones were represented including; lush, shady, dry and a grassland area. All trees, plants and hedging were representative of those grown in this part of Southern England.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2015

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2015 was designed by Cornwall based designer Darren Hawkes who had previously executed a small fresh category garden at Chelsea for charity SeeAbility for which he won a Silver Gilt medal.

Darren’s garden for Brewin Dolphin captured his own love of history and craftsmanship. Over 40,000 pieces of hand cut slate made up the surface of gargantuan platforms which were designed to walk on. The garden was filled with mature English Elms and familiar hedgerow plants which were evocative of a shared memory of the British Countryside.

Many of the elements of the garden were inspired by the Cornish landscape; dry stone, granite walls, slate paving and hedgerow inspired planting. The stone for the garden was sourced from Bodmin Moor and all the prefabrication took place in Cornwall.

The garden drew on Brewin Dolphin’s heritage and reflected the firm’s forward thinking approach to business. He chose Ulmus minor (small leaved elm) to give the garden a rugged rural feel and Elms were a very appropriate choice of tree for the Brewin Dolphin Garden as they have a real sense of heritage.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2014

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2014 was designed by recent garden design graduate, Matthew Childs. He produced an awe inspiring design at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show the previous summer.

Matthew’s inspiration for the Brewin Dolphin garden lay deep in nature and in particular the feeling of potential. The classical, symmetrical layout reflected the heritage of Brewin Dolphin yet the design was contemporary and forward thinking, which Matthew hoped would instil visitors with a sense of anticipation; these are also attributes in line with Brewin Dolphin’s ethos.

A sense of calm and tranquillity was captured using water in the garden. Specially designed metal panels created an illusion of rippling water. The effect was evocative of the magic of light reflecting on a watery surface and gentle movement in a solid, quiet and still form.

Two monumental copper arches and a wide zig zag path divided the garden into distinct areas with the apertures in the arches acting as frames for focal points and the idea that around every corner there are exciting new possibilities. Matthew’s planting concept was fresh spring-like in its colour palate and green foliage presented a nurturing and calm feeling. Matthew was awarded a Silver Gilt Medal for his garden.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2013

The Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2013 was designed by another Chelsea veteran, Robert Myers who had quite a serious haul of RHS Chelsea medals to his credit. He added another Gold medal to the collection for his Brewin Dolphin design.

Robert delivered a breath-taking design that was calm, reflective and private with a simple geometric layout. The design was inspired by Brewin Dolphin’s ethos: bespoke and innovative, but firmly rooted in past traditions. The various spaces for entertaining and interaction reflected the importance Brewin Dolphin places on personal relationships.

The garden was crisp, modernist and based on “L” shaped forms, understated and elegant but still a gardener’s garden. The plant list was varied but neither excessive nor intimidating for those visitors who might have been inspired to replicate sections of Robert’s sublime planting.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2012

In 2012 Brewin Dolphin commissioned Cleve West to design their first show garden celebrating their 250th anniversary, winning not only an RHS Gold Flora medal but best in show.

The garden design was described as ‘formal and timeless, contemporary yet traditional’. Stone sentinels were topped by flamed shaped finials holding up intricate iron gates which led to an enormous 300-year-old mill head mounted on the wall. The Beech hedges survived the cold weather prior to the show and were put in place surrounding warm stone paths fringed by colourful flower beds.

Yew hedges cut into slightly differing forms gave a sense of humour and celebrated a return for the 19th Century fashion for topiary. Cleve said the garden aimed to take the viewer from the present through modern colourful plants, to the past through the traditional topiary and ancient stone.

Building A Legacy From The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The Stunning Coccolith sculpture that formed the centre piece of Brewin Dolphin’s medal winning 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower show garden has been donated to Horatio’s Garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres, to provide stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends.

Following a capital appeal, £500,000 was raised in just six months to enable the building work to start on the garden in March this year. Throughout the summer, a team of volunteers have been working tirelessly to prepare the garden for the opening.

Designed by award-winning garden designer, James Alexander-Sinclair, who described the space as “The most meaningful garden I have ever designed.” Horatio’s Garden is made up of six distinct spaces, each with a different purpose and designed to stimulate different senses – sight, smell, touch and all providing a sense of wellbeing. The courtyard is at the heart of the unit and is accessible to everyone to enjoy.

There is a woodland garden overlooked by the wards to encourage wildlife into the garden, a play garden for children who are visiting relatives in the unit and a physiotherapy garden which will be functional as well as beautiful.

Stephen Martin, Head of Brewin Dolphin’s Glasgow office and Rosy Hardy, designer of Brewin Dolphin’s 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and winner of 21 gold medals handed over the Coccolith sculpture, which has been reimagined into 3 smaller sculptures, to better blend with the low-growing shrubbery of the scented garden.

According to Stephen Martin:  “Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Rosy Hardy were keen to create a legacy for the garden. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into the design and building them. In this instance it’s exciting to know that the garden will live on at the fabulous Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow and can be enjoyed by others for many years to come.”

This is the second legacy made by Brewin Dolphin to Horatio’s Garden.  It donated a mature beech hedge from its Chelsea winning garden 2012 designed by Clive West, to Horatio’s Garden in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, Salisbury District Hospital.

 

Cesar Manrique - a holiday surprise

Our 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal winning garden designer, Darren Hawkes, talks about how he stumbled across the work of Cesar Manrique.

Back at the tail end of Easter my wife and I decided to escape with our two girls for a week’s holiday and have some time together where gardens, garden design and the daily conversations about work wouldn’t occupy my time.  We opted for a week in a hotel in the quiet South West of Lanzarote.

After a couple of restful days getting to know the immediate area we headed off around the Island to see what we could find. Little did I realise but we were about to stumble upon the work of Cesar Manrique and have our senses invigorated by his wonderful spaces.  I was aware of Manrique’s geometric sculptures, but much to my shame had no knowledge of the spaces we were about to explore. 

Landscape architects and garden designers are always talking about the greater landscape and having an understanding of the vernacular. Manrique is someone who not only understands but has such an affinity with his Island materials that his ability to shape, manipulate and decorate the landscape borders on genius.  Walls that curve, slide and melt back into the volcanic lava lead the eye gently from one area to another.  Steps built from volcanic rock that have both an uneven sur-face and an irregular rise, fly in the face of modern commercial safety requirements  and instead challenge, forcing us to engage and remind us of the greatest of pleasures….play.

Our first destination was Manrique’s Cactus Garden, a huge elliptical walled garden with many ter-raced sides which are a home to a huge variety of species.  These could quite easily be stand-alone sculptures when you see the myriad of forms.  

Huge ball shaped Parodia sit together in front of giant Saguaro reminiscent of Box balls and fastig-iate Hornbeam with the warm tones and textual complexity of the honeycombed lava walls acting as foil behind.  Birds fly from roosting points on the upper terraces and people mill about with a look of wonder on their faces, transfixed by this oasis in the middle of the lava strewn landscape. Everywhere you look details in steel, stone and timber show a lack of censorship and a freedom of expression rarely enjoyed in the public realm.

If the Cactus garden was an eye-opener then Jameos Del Auga was a mindblower.  This is a space that you discover amid acres and acres of Euphobia obtusifolia and enter through a narrow passageway before opening out into a fern laden, open sided, cave / night club / gar-den/architectural wonder/ James Bond hideout, that made me smile so much I felt I may get jaw ache.  Plants used sparingly in the most specific spots allow them to be seen as art pieces in their own right.  Pools, hanging cages filled with ferns, manmade landscaping merging with natural stone all make for an enchanting experience. 

Being unexpectedly inspired is one of the greatest of treats in life and coming back from a holiday not only having rested but having found a renewed passion for ones work is more than I could have wished for. My clients can therefor expect a renewed commitment to detail and consistency of material but most importantly a reinvigorated sense of fun.

Building a Show Garden

Dan Riddleston from contractors Bowles & Wyer describes the complexities of building gardens like those at Chelsea Flower Show.

My first ever Chelsea garden, built over 20 years ago, was a lovely Mediterranean garden for the Sunday Times with Randle Siddeley.  It was a very tight budget of £25,000 – a fraction of the budgets nowadays.  Everything in that garden was begged, borrowed or stolen. At that time there weren’t that many large show gardens, ours was 10m x 10m and the stars of the show were the gardens on the rock bank with their rock water features and brightly coloured rhododendrons.

I was then fortunate enough to have worked alongside Waterers Landscape and subsequently Crocus on some of their gold medal winning gardens before Bowles and Wyer Contracts built our first garden in 2011. 

We worked for Tom Hoblyn on his Memories of Cornwall garden for Homebase for which we won a Silver Gilt medal. I was pleased with this result for our first garden, but really thought we’d done just enough to get gold.  The judges may not have quite interpreted it in the way it was intended but we all know they have to work to a set criteria and that’s just the way it is. This garden continues to live and now has a permanent residence at The Eden Project. 

The following year we worked for Tom again on his Italian Renaissance garden with a contemporary twist for Arthritis UK. This was perhaps the most challenging garden I have built at Chelsea with its many layers of water, just like its classical inspiration, Villa d'Este. There was a lot of construction with travertine stone with each stone numbered and the planting of some seriously large Italian Cyprus.  This was awarded another silver gilt medal, but with the added prize of being voted the ‘People’s Choice’ garden.

Working at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show can take its toll and can be disruptive to the running of a company if not managed well, so with a full order book we took time off in 2013.

In 2014 we started our relationship with Brewin Dolphin and their chosen designer for that year, Matthew Childs. This was Matthew’s first main avenue garden at Chelsea and like Tom Hoblyn’s Italian Renaissance garden technically very challenging. The garden was well received by the public and was awarded a silver gilt medal.

The following year brought another fresh face to Chelsea in the form of Brewin Dolphin garden designer Darren Hawkes.  It is always exciting to work with new and emerging talent and in Darren, we had someone who is extremely practical. We were given the challenge of building on the rock bank, something I had never done before and brought its own unique set of challenges. 

Construction was a much bigger excavation job than on the flats of Main Ave or Royal Hospital Way, the logistics are much greater as access is trickier and storage is extremely limited.  That said, Darren’s design for sponsor Brewin Dolphin was perfectly suited to such a situation. 

Darren’s inspiration came from Neolithic dolmens and the work of artist James Turrell.  Floating platforms and naturalistic planting were above an underground stream which flows into a pool. Woodland style planting comprised of ferns, aquilegia, and bleeding heart.  Elms were used for the first time in many years and were to represent those trees that continue to thrive in Cornwall despite Dutch elm disease.  

A larger than normal garden, with 22m frontage, this was too big a project to just turn up and start building. The floating platforms had in excess of 40,000 pieces of hand cut slate forming stepping stones over the stream and garden.  Building off site started in Cornwall in January, with a full size mock-up in timber and hardboard, and the painstaking cutting and gluing of slate. The garden was a great success and gained a gold medal, our first as Bowles and Wyer.
 
This year we worked with the wonderful Rosy Hardy. As in previous years we had been planning the build of the garden from as soon as we were approached in November 2015. The raised walkway was built off site by our engineers in Trowbridge and the Coccosphere by our model makers/sculptors in Teddington. We mocked up the gabion walls and spent hours in meetings working out the best way to build the garden. The end product was spectacular.

Planting paradise

David Hurrion reflects on how the planter’s art at Chelsea Flower Show is often overlooked by visitors and viewers alike.

The greatest flower show on earth may be over for another year, but the incredible gardens that were created there will live on in our memories, through photographs and on BBC iPlayer for many months, if not years to come. 

I first started going to Chelsea more than 40 years ago and, from my very first visit, have always been in awe of how established these ‘instant’ gardens look. The sheer quality of finish and attention to detail sets them above most other events and a medal at Chelsea, whatever its colour is hard earned and well deserved.

I’ve designed, built and planted at many gardening shows. But for me the biggest and most exciting challenge has been planting for other designers – most notably Adam Frost on his Urban Retreat show garden in 2015. So when I was asked by Jekka McVicar to help plant her garden, A Modern Apothecary, at this year’s show, I was thrilled and terrified all at the same time. Thrilled because it is an honour to be asked to help out at such a prestigious show, but terrified because of the responsibility to get it right.

Show gardens are judged across a range of criteria including overall concept, design, hard landscaping, and suitability and quality of plant material. But for me, one of the most important considerations that the judges take into account is the art of the planting itself – how the plants have gone into the ground and how they ‘sit’ in relation to their surroundings. OK, so what’s the big deal with that? Surely it’s just a matter of digging a hole and putting the plant in the right way up? That might be fine for planting in a domestic garden where the growth of a plant can adjust gradually to the direction of the sun, settling into position and spreading out to intertwine with its neighbours. But there isn’t the luxury of this time at Chelsea; for the show garden to look like it has always been there, the planter needs to have a wealth of experience of how plants grow, together with an artistic eye. And, as all plants have different growth habits and respond to the conditions in which they are growing, it is crucial to have knowledge of a wide range of different species and to have watched them grow and develop over time. Such knowledge will enable a good planter to turn each individual specimen this way and that until it looks natural and to plant at a density that is in balance with the garden without it appearing ‘overstuffed’.

So, with other garden shows on the horizon – Gardeners’ World Live and Hampton Court are just a few weeks away – spare a thought for all the skills of the planters who have added the finesse and final flourish that brings life to these fleeting glimpses of heaven.

Brewin Dolphin legacy – Horatio’s garden

The RHS Chelsea Flower celebrations are over and the gardens have been dismantled.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden entitled ‘Forever Freefolk’, designed by esteemed nurserywoman Rosy Hardy achieved an impressive silver medal for her first ever show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The stunning Coccolith sculpture has been donated to Horatio’s Garden, designed by James Alexander Sinclair, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres. Leading garden designers develop the stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends, creating an environment which becomes an integral part of their lives and care whilst spending many months in hospital.

Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Rosy Hardy were keen to create a legacy for the garden. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into the design and building them. In this instance it’s exciting to know that the garden will live on at the fabulous Horatio’s Garden and can be enjoyed by others for many years to come.

As the RHS Chelsea Flower Show drew to a close the plants were also sold to the public and raised £2,000 for Naomi House Children’s Hospice.

The build and finished garden

It has been a hectic build-up to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. The hard work has been worth the effort, as you can see from the finished Show garden.

Brewin Dolphin build part 2

Part 2 of our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the build of our Chelsea Flower show garden.

The Brewin Dolphin garden has quite suddenly blossomed and is starting to look very much like a floral masterpiece showcasing the painterly skills of plantswoman Rosy Hardy.  Everything is coming together in perfect harmony, an exhibitor’s dream! 

With the Chelsea Flower Show just days away, it’s now crunch time, every detail must be perfect for the 160.000 visitors attending this great British summer event.

Brewin Dolphin Build

Building a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show is always a challenge, and this year has proven to be no different.

“Forever Freefolk”, the Brewin Dolphin garden designed by Rosy Hardy, has seen it all since the the build  began almost two weeks ago, a drop in temperature from 24°C to 4°C, pouring rain and even the odd hailstone, but in spite of the weather the team led by Dan Riddleston from Bowles & Wyer has continued working hard to get the garden ready for the 23rd May.

In this video Rosy Hardy explains the initial works and major features of the "Forever Freefolk" Brewin Dolphin garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

My Chelsea 2014 experience

Matthew Childs looks back on his experience designing our 2014 Chelsea Flower show garden.

It was a blistering hot summer day at the Hampton Court Palace flower show in 2013 and I was midway through taking a gardening club around my show garden for Ecover. I’d been awarded a gold medal and best in show and I’d been flying high all week… it surely couldn’t get any better than this. At the back of the group I spotted two smartly dressed city types looking very out of place listening intently to my gardening patter.  Little did I know that these two individuals were from the Brewin Dolphin marketing team and held the golden ticket in their hands to the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my garden design career to date.

The ‘golden ticket’ was a chance to pitch for Brewin Dolphin’s main avenue Chelsea garden the following year. I think I must have been a wild card entry as I wasn’t given long, but I was going to give it my all. I presented a concept that was inspired by the energy of new life and new beginnings in spring – perfect for Chelsea time.  My concept was a hit and I got the gig.

For the next nine months I lived and breathed Chelsea.  My preparations for the garden saw me working with some of the country’s best horticulturalists and nurseries, artisans, sculptors, water feature specialists and the cream of the landscaping industry.  I travelled far and wide searching for trees throughout Europe and stone at the foot of Snowdonia.  My every move was followed by the BBC for their show coverage with cameras, soundmen and directors all in tow.  I still can’t quite believe the experience I had. 

When I think back to this time two years ago with only weeks to go until we were on site digging the first foundations, I remember the pressure I felt was enormous. If anyone tells you they aren’t going for gold when they design a show garden they are telling a big fat fib!  I wanted to do the best I could, not only for myself but my client and the amazing team of people around me.

20 intensive days of building and planting the garden was the most surreal experience ever. The Chelsea show ground during this build period is the most exhilarating place for a garden fanatic like myself.  Surrounded by passionate and skilled people and an explosion of the most wonderful plants everywhere you look… it is a gardener’s paradise.

After blood, sweat and a few tears the vision was made a reality.  I couldn’t have asked for any more, the team camaraderie and commitment had been a wonderful thing to be part of and we had all made a very beautiful space.

Spruced up in a new suit and shiny shoes, my first Chelsea press day arrived and the garden I had dreamed up in my head nearly a year before was adorned with celebrities and royalty, followed by a week of entertaining Brewin Dolphin’s clients on the garden and showing off our creation to the public.  The Chelsea week went by in a whirlwind.

The garden was awarded a silver gilt medal… not bad for my first Chelsea garden… and yes I would have loved that gold, but on reflection I think it was the best outcome for me at that stage in my career.  You see Brewin Dolphin had seen in me potential and they nurtured this by giving me the opportunity to rise to the challenge and create a garden on the world’s biggest gardening stage.  I learnt so much from the experience; it was a springboard for my career and a lesson that there is always more to learn… I’ve still got that Chelsea gold to aim for!

The River Test and History of the Huguenots

Inspiration behind the Brewin Dolphin ‘Forever Freefolk’ Show Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Inspirations for the garden design have been many and varied, but the chalk streams on the river Test in Hampshire, the Huguenots, who fled persecution from France to England, and the impact that they had on the way in which money is produced in the modern day are all key elements.

The Huguenots were French Protestants with origins in the 16th centuries. The Foreign Protestants Naturalisation Act, of 1708, allowed foreign protestants to migrate and settle in Eng-land. An estimated 50,000 fled to England.

Huguenots quickly rose to prominence in banking, stock-broking and insurance, together with the trades of printing and paper-making. One Huguenot that was particularly inspirational for Rosy Hardy when designing the Brewin Dolphin garden 2016 was Henri de Portal. Portal was twenty when he settled in Hampshire, where he began working at a paper mill in South Stoneham and quickly became friends with Sir William Heathcote, who gave Portal the lease to Laverstoke Mill. This mill was on the river Test, and would soon become one of the most successful paper mills in the whole of England.  This mill happens to be in the same village as Hardy’s nursery.

The River Test runs 63km long, and is one of the longest and most prominent chalk streams in England. The purity of the water in the Test makes it perfect for paper making, specifically the manufacturing of bank notes.

Portal won the contract to make paper for Bank of England notes in 1724. The paper that Portal created was 80 to 90 grams per square metre, manufactured from cotton fibre (sometimes mixed with linen) and impregnated with polyvinyl alcohol or gelatine to give it extra strength. Portal also invented the metallic thread incorporated into the paper (the dotted line called ‘windowed thread’), which continues to be used to this day.

There are around 200 chalk streams in the world under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England, one of them being the river Test. Visitors to the garden are invited to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource and the importance of protecting them for future generations. Brewin Dolphin has a similar responsibility to strengthen, grow and protect their client’s investments.

The trials of a Chelsea show garden continue....

Rosy Hardy discusses the trials of finding the perfect materials for her Show garden.

Flints as a wall building material have been used for centuries as they make good filling material adding strength to the wall when held in place by brick or stone. Flints used to be traded in the same way as gold and were worth far more, both brick and flint create a timeless feature.

How do we use the idea of brick and flint walls in a modern way to go with the conceptual idea of the Brewin Dolphin Garden at Chelsea?  Gabions are used for effect and as structural walls.  Sourcing the correct flint and gravel has caused me to have more than one or two sleepless nights. Not many people can say that flints are giving them nightmares.....

We are using wire casements to provide rigidity and form, with the fill of brick and flint making the structure stable. The beauty of the different surfaces of the flint is visible through the wire, without the need for mortar.

The dried riverbed floor is a mixture of different sizes of flint gravel. Through this will be colourful plants which thrive in these stony conditions:

  • Erigeron Quakeress a wonderful summer flowering perennial can grow to 45cm when in flower.
  • Centaurea simplicicaulis makes tight mounds of grey foliage with these lovely pink cornflowers.
  • Nigella or 'Love in the Mist' will self seed giving a carpet of blue. Then its seed-heads look good for the rest of the season.
  • Achillea 'Gloria Jean' a good strong pink form that thrives in gravel areas.

All of these plants and their close relatives make excellent gravel bed plantings.

Shooting at Chelsea Flower Show

Allan Pollok Morris discusses the thrill of photography at Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chelsea Flower Show is world’s leading garden festival, there is nothing like it, the most acclaimed gardeners, designers and plants’ people gather to demonstrate their expertise and élan to the most discerning of audiences.

My role amongst them is something of a borrower, making a record of other people’s art and sharing it with the wider world through a variety of mediums. 

Not everyone gets such privileged access to these places and even after 15 years of covering the show gardens it’s still a magical experience.  My secret weapon is being allowed unlimited access to the show ground every morning from 5am and on quieter evenings I can return for sunset and night photography. 

The magic of the early morning in particular can’t be overstated, even though the buses thump down the embankment and the planes circle overhead, there is a visceral sense of having the world to yourself in the most beautiful light.  The freedom to shoot key features while exploring these fine gardens in solitude is, I imagine, as close as you can get to guilt-free scrumping for apples in the gardens of Eden!

With that said it’s not without its pressures and deadlines, particularly on the Monday morning before the show opens to the public and when the press and VIPs have a preview, followed by the Royal visit in the afternoon and the Gala in the evening.  This is when the gardens are at their peak and ready for the RHS Judging panel, so this is the optimum time to photograph them, in the early morning before the show ground gets too busy. 

There is a great deal to accomplish in a brief window, but even though the photographer is at the mercy of the weather, there is a real buzz and some of the contractors are still adding finishing touches to the gardens, this is the perfect time make a photographic record of the gardens with the sun rising through the London plane trees in a moment of time that expresses the zeitgeist in this field of design.

The large format Phase One digital camera I work with creates an exceptional level of capture, but time is of the essence, I am usually finished before the breakfast tours begin as the light is often too harsh by 7:30am.  This means I have to be very selective, but at the same an open mind is the most important tool in looking for a subject or composition that has the sense of something I may not have seen before. 

In a few hours the gardens will be taken over by TV crews and become a playground for press and celebrities, but with my work done I can’t help but feel emotionally invested in the success of the project and for all the people behind the gardens. 

I usually have the help of a good team at the show, many of my clients have a clear brief and give me in-house or agency press and marketing support taking care of press relations and face-to-face reception when the photography moves to portraits of celebrity visitors and press calls.  The world’s media are hungry for such photos around the day, but the congenial atmosphere of Chelsea means there are no media scrums or paparazzi hiding in the hedges!

However, a quick turnaround is needed and I’ll have a digital technician editing my large format imagery on a high quality colour calibrated photo-editing suite on site. It’s such a busy time of year I couldn’t do the flower show work without them. Once I had to shoot the gardens on press day at the RHS Hampton Court  Palace Flower Show and then be at a magazine shoot in the Hamptons 100 miles East of New York the following day, but thanks to my digital technician we were still able to deliver the photos on time.

There is a very close link between the way a garden is made and the way it is photographed and so it is important to look at it, in part, with the eyes of its designer.  The contractors and designers of the gardens are hard at work up to a year in advance and so there is a fine art to gleaning the designer’s vision to make the photographs without getting in the way of their work - literally moving mountains of earth!

The garden designer takes complex, technical ideas, channeling them through a wealth of disciplines to reach the result.  When they work with a sponsor at the Chelsea Flower Show the success of the mix is even more rewarding to work with on camera.  In recent years Brewin Dolphin have been respected supporters of the Chelsea show, raising their flag in the middle of the Main Avenue show gardens and it has been fascinating to work with the wider group of designers they have partnered with.  

The proudest moment for a sponsor has to be achieving the highly coveted ‘Best in show’ award and gold medal as they did with Cleve West and Robert Myers in 2012 and 2013.  With time a little more risk was added to Brewin Dolphin’s portfolio of Main Avenue gardens as they went on to form inspirational partnerships with emerging talent such as Matthew Childs and Darren Hawkes. 

Recently I visited Rosy Hardy’s nursery in Hampshire, to learn more about her garden for Brewin Dolphin at the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  I can’t help but be excited by the potential that surrounds this garden.  Rosy’s 20 plus years as a veteran Chelsea exhibitor in the Floral Marquee is now taking her exceptional expertise and critical eye to the making of her first show garden.

Rosy imparted to me her love of the English landscape, particularly its native plants and chalk streams that have inspired the garden.  As a photographer, this can only be a positive, photographically speaking this could be the first Chelsea garden that takes me out of the show ground and in to the countryside and I look forward to sharing more of those results here.

Brewin Dolphin garden relocating

The stunning 2015 Gold medal winning Brewin Dolphin Garden designed by Darren Hawkes Landscapes has found a new home at the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden in Penzance.

Now in its fourth year, Tremenheere sculpture garden is constantly evolving since opening in 2012. The garden is situated in a protected valley with stunning views to St Michaels Mount and has both exciting sub tropical planting and contemporary art installations.  It is home of many conceptual art works by artists such as James Turell and Kishio Suga.

The Chelsea Flower Show design has been re-configured and re-imagined to make the most of Tremenheere’s unique location.  This installation will be a pleasure for all the senses. The magnificent hand cut slate platforms create a tactile standing space from which to enjoy the sound and sight of nearby series of ponds and enjoy the ever changing light from the canopy of trees above.  The vast platforms will be arranged in a subtle arc to allow the visitors to travel through the space experiencing the play between hard and soft landscaping.

Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Darren were keen to create a legacy for the garden and a sustainable future. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into to design and building them so in this instance it’s marvellous to know that the garden will live on and can be enjoyed by visitors for many years to come.

Darren is thrilled to see the sculptural elements in the same gardens as James Turrell’s work as they were one of the key inspirations for his Brewin Dolphin Chelsea design.  Many elements of the design were also inspired by the Cornish landscape so for the garden to find a home at Tremenheere completes the circle and although the planting palette is different at Tremenheere the slate platforms look like they were made for this the idyllic woodland setting.

As well as the ‘Floating Garden’ the imposing vertical slate structure entitled ‘Monolith’ which was also part of Darren’s Chelsea Garden can be found by the visitor entrance and cafe.  The installation and a new sculpture by Peter Randall-Page will be unveiled on Friday 20 May 2016.

Darren Hawkes

Find out more information here:
http://www.tremenheere.co.uk 
http://www.darrenhawkeslandscapes.co.uk

Rosy Hardy’s Gardening Blog - The beauty of the Coccolith

Rosy Hardy discusses the feature sculpture in the Chelsea garden and her inspiration behind this.

Why have we used the pattern we have, for the feature sculpture within the garden?

Who could not marvel at the beauty and intricacy of this structure?

What is it?

This is a Coccosphere, or in simple terms a group of phytoplanktonic creatures from the Jurassic period, individually known as Coccolithophores.

Chalk is an amazing sedimentary layer, laid down when our seas were at 20 degrees centigrade.
I would have loved to have been around then to scuba dive in such amazing waters with so much incredible life.  Using this wonderful matrix we designed both our sculpture and the coccolith stepping stones.

A coccolith is the skeletal remains of the creature, which is what we see today under the microscope within chalk.

The vision was to make the sculpture look as though it is floating above the source of the crystal clear waters of the chalk stream.  Models help with the idea giving a 3D aspect, to iron out any flaws. With the help of our in-house architect we were able to make an initial model. From this not only do we see how the sculpture will sit within the garden but also where we need contouring.

Going on from that, is the realisation of how to forge this in Aluminium and also how to make the whole thing work.

Attention to detail is the way to make all of these plans come into realisation. Sketches always help to consolidate the ideas; but although they give a certain perspective you still need to have working models.

This is where modern computerisation comes into its fore. The foresight is brought into reality, showing the floating Coccosphere with the elevated path going through. The designer’s vision is visible giving everyone a great perspective of the idea.

The process from here on is to have the model in physical pieces at a 5th size to make sure the joints work and look exactly as required. It is from this stage that foundry casts will be made. Once made there is the possibility of changing colour. This can be an endless task as it can be spray painted to give any effect required. Definite decisions have to be taken.

Who knows what the finished Sculpture colour and texture will be?
That is for you to wait and find out....

The Brewin Dolphin Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2016

Rosy Hardy describes her design and inspiration for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The search for a Chelsea Flower Show garden designer is quite a task - selecting the right person with a design that inspires and has the potential to engage show visitors and the great British public, who tune in to the BBC TV coverage, is challenging to say the least.

For 2016 we have chosen the very talented Rosy Hardy, a celebrated nurserywoman who also happens to be the holder of an impressive 20 RHS Chelsea Gold medals for her displays of herbaceous perennials in the Great Pavilion. The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016 will be Rosy’s Chelsea show garden debut.

Rosy has been growing herbaceous perennials commercially for 20 years at her nursery in Hampshire which she runs with husband Rob. She is a regular on national television regularly contributing to the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Flower Show TV specials. She has been a consistent medal winner at RHS Westminster Flower Shows, Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, picking up a Gold for her first ever garden at Hampton Court in 2001, getting the double in 2004 and securing 7 consecutive gold medals at Chelsea from 1994-2000. She is currently the most successful female exhibitor ever in the history of the Chelsea Flower Show with more golds than both Beth Chatto and ‘Queen of Herbs’ Jekka McVicar.

The garden is entitled ‘Forever Freefolk’ and it will invite visitors and TV viewers to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource.

There are around 200 chalk streams in the world, under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England - one of the best examples is the River Test which flows through Freefolk Hampshire, neighbouring designer Rosy’s own nursery.

This English chalk terroir is also the landscape in which our Partner Coates & Seely have chosen to produce their award winning English sparkling wine which crafted to the highest standards of French winemaking. Our Chelsea Flower Show guests and those joining us on Rosy Hardy’s Pre-Chelsea Flower Show ‘Road Shows’ will have the opportunity to sample some of the superb Coates & Seely fizz but more about the ‘Road Shows’ and our Secret Garden events later…

The garden will take visitors on an experiential journey exploring the fragility and unique nature of these streams by casting the eye through a dried up chalk stream bed, past lush planting onwards towards the source. The garden references the changing context and form of the landscape. The sense of loss for the stream is balanced in part by the potential for renewal and the chance to turn back and contemplate the garden. It is also an opportunity to remind us of what water offers, given that chalk aquifers supply 70 percent of Southern England’s water.

The garden will showcase more than one brand new plant introduction and some breathtakingly beautiful features. Several planting zones are represented including; lush, shady, dry and a grassland area. All trees, plants and hedging are representative of those grown in this part of Southern England. The garden is designed to be a sensual, accessible and thought provoking educational experience.

Rosy Hardy’s Gardening Blog

Rosy Hardy provides an update on her Brewin Dolphin Chelsea Garden

Chelsea flower show 2016 will be a challenge for me as I embark on a new venture. I have taken on the challenge of designing a full sized Main Avenue Show garden for the first time.

This will be the 25th year I have exhibited at Chelsea and not only am I doing my first Chelsea show garden but I will continue to oversee our Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plant’s display within the Floral pavilion. As far as I am aware this will be the first time anyone has taken on this monumental task.

Just to give a taster as to what is required to pull off a Chelsea garden.

  1. An outstanding sponsor - Brewin Dolphin
  2. A brilliant contractor - Bowles & Wyer
  3. Fantastic plants - Hardys Cottage Garden plants
  4. The most amazing back up team
  5. As per Nanny Macphee – have faith

Designing a Show Garden on Main Avenue at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show raises the burning question; how long can it take to go from bidding for sponsorship to applying for the space and getting accepted?

For many designers it is a long process of well over a year but in truth we had 48 hours to put a proposal forward to our sponsor Brewin Dolphin and after this a short-list was drawn up, which thankfully included us. We then had to prepare a presentation of our concept in 36 hours, jump on a train to London and do our best. Thankfully Brewin Dolphin loved our ideas and after some tweaks here and there the RHS Show Panel also gave us the green light. In total from sketch to acceptance it was a whirlwind 5 weeks.

Numerous ideas were condensed into a starting sketch but began with a scrap of A4 paper with a list of buzz words to try and describe the wonderful area in which we live, in Freefolk Hampshire. The geology of this very special landscape has changed significantly, over the years.

The underlying area is made of chalk, a very interesting material that can act like a sponge. Chalk was laid down over a prolonged heating of the oceans many millennia ago. The seas were at 20 degrees Celsius the planktonic life was rich and the dying bodies of these coccolithophores ended up on the seabed. The skeletons made from calcium carbonate of these creatures are known as coccoliths and this is the backbone of the chalk.

The next step was how to integrate this beautiful natural structure into the garden design. We subsequently narrowed down all our ideas and decided to base our design on chalk streams and their surrounding landscape known as ‘chalk down land’.

This landscape was crucially important for some of our local industry, in particular the Portal’s tradition of making bank notes for the Bank of England with the water marks and silver threads that are still on our notes to this day.

The Huguenots moved to this area in the 1730's and settled here to make paper and developed the watermark technology that is still relevant. The chalky landscape and pure water of the River Test was perfect for the paper making trade. The river and path running through the garden are symbolic of the silver thread running through our banknotes.

There will be nods to some of the naturally occurring elements of this Hampshire landscape in the show garden but the underlying concept of chalk streams is key to the story.

'Chalk streams are our Rainforests' and are very much a fragile and important ecosystem that needs protecting for future generations. Too much water extraction could lead to dried up streams as will be depicted in our concept garden with gravel planting and coccolith gabion stepping stones.

More news soon.....so keep logging in for more enticing snippets of how we are getting along with our Chelsea Flower Show garden.

The opinions expressed in this document are not necessarily the views held throughout Brewin Dolphin Ltd.

Brewin Dolphin at RHS Chelsea 2017

After five successful show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, this year Brewin Dolphin moved into the Great Pavilion, supporting a display by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.

The display marked plantswoman Rosy Hardy’s 25th year of exhibiting at RHS Chelsea and followed her Show Garden debut last year designing the Brewin Dolphin Forever Freefolk garden. We were delighted to see Rosy awarded her 22nd Gold Medal for the exhibit which included a beautiful display of herbaceous perennials in a landscape setting.

Plants included seasonal favourites: geraniums, ferns and grasses and a hosta that has featured in every one of Rosy’s RHS Chelsea displays since she arrived at the show in 1992.

Chelsea Flower Show Archive

The Chelsea Flower Show is the premium UK gardening event and something Brewin Dolphin has become synonymous with, 2016 will be the fifth consecutive year that Brewin Dolphin will have a Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016

The Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2016 was designed by Rosy Hardy, one of the UK’s leading plant nursery owners and renowned for her stunning displays of herbaceous perennials at shows the length and breadth of the country.

Rosy is the most decorated female exhibitor in the history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. She has 21 RHS Gold medals, more than the ‘Queen of Herbs’ Jekka McVicar and the Doyenne of British gardening, Beth Chatto.

Rosy was supported by landscape team Bowles & Wyer, who Brewin Dolphin has worked with on previous gardens.

The garden invited visitors to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource. There are around 200 chalk streams in the world, under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England - one of the best examples is the River Test, which flows through Freefolk Hampshire, neighbouring Hardy’s cottage nursery.

Rosy’s aim was for the garden to challenge, engage and encourage visitors to recognise the fragility and unique nature of these English chalk streams.

The garden was designed to be a sensual, accessible and a thought provoking educational experience - showcasing more than one brand new plant introduction and some breathtakingly beautiful features. Several planting zones were represented including; lush, shady, dry and a grassland area. All trees, plants and hedging were representative of those grown in this part of Southern England.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2015

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2015 was designed by Cornwall based designer Darren Hawkes who had previously executed a small fresh category garden at Chelsea for charity SeeAbility for which he won a Silver Gilt medal.

Darren’s garden for Brewin Dolphin captured his own love of history and craftsmanship. Over 40,000 pieces of hand cut slate made up the surface of gargantuan platforms which were designed to walk on. The garden was filled with mature English Elms and familiar hedgerow plants which were evocative of a shared memory of the British Countryside.

Many of the elements of the garden were inspired by the Cornish landscape; dry stone, granite walls, slate paving and hedgerow inspired planting. The stone for the garden was sourced from Bodmin Moor and all the prefabrication took place in Cornwall.

The garden drew on Brewin Dolphin’s heritage and reflected the firm’s forward thinking approach to business. He chose Ulmus minor (small leaved elm) to give the garden a rugged rural feel and Elms were a very appropriate choice of tree for the Brewin Dolphin Garden as they have a real sense of heritage.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2014

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2014 was designed by recent garden design graduate, Matthew Childs. He produced an awe inspiring design at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show the previous summer.

Matthew’s inspiration for the Brewin Dolphin garden lay deep in nature and in particular the feeling of potential. The classical, symmetrical layout reflected the heritage of Brewin Dolphin yet the design was contemporary and forward thinking, which Matthew hoped would instil visitors with a sense of anticipation; these are also attributes in line with Brewin Dolphin’s ethos.

A sense of calm and tranquillity was captured using water in the garden. Specially designed metal panels created an illusion of rippling water. The effect was evocative of the magic of light reflecting on a watery surface and gentle movement in a solid, quiet and still form.

Two monumental copper arches and a wide zig zag path divided the garden into distinct areas with the apertures in the arches acting as frames for focal points and the idea that around every corner there are exciting new possibilities. Matthew’s planting concept was fresh spring-like in its colour palate and green foliage presented a nurturing and calm feeling. Matthew was awarded a Silver Gilt Medal for his garden.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2013

The Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2013 was designed by another Chelsea veteran, Robert Myers who had quite a serious haul of RHS Chelsea medals to his credit. He added another Gold medal to the collection for his Brewin Dolphin design.

Robert delivered a breath-taking design that was calm, reflective and private with a simple geometric layout. The design was inspired by Brewin Dolphin’s ethos: bespoke and innovative, but firmly rooted in past traditions. The various spaces for entertaining and interaction reflected the importance Brewin Dolphin places on personal relationships.

The garden was crisp, modernist and based on “L” shaped forms, understated and elegant but still a gardener’s garden. The plant list was varied but neither excessive nor intimidating for those visitors who might have been inspired to replicate sections of Robert’s sublime planting.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2012

In 2012 Brewin Dolphin commissioned Cleve West to design their first show garden celebrating their 250th anniversary, winning not only an RHS Gold Flora medal but best in show.

The garden design was described as ‘formal and timeless, contemporary yet traditional’. Stone sentinels were topped by flamed shaped finials holding up intricate iron gates which led to an enormous 300-year-old mill head mounted on the wall. The Beech hedges survived the cold weather prior to the show and were put in place surrounding warm stone paths fringed by colourful flower beds.

Yew hedges cut into slightly differing forms gave a sense of humour and celebrated a return for the 19th Century fashion for topiary. Cleve said the garden aimed to take the viewer from the present through modern colourful plants, to the past through the traditional topiary and ancient stone.

Building A Legacy From The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The Stunning Coccolith sculpture that formed the centre piece of Brewin Dolphin’s medal winning 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower show garden has been donated to Horatio’s Garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres, to provide stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends.

Following a capital appeal, £500,000 was raised in just six months to enable the building work to start on the garden in March this year. Throughout the summer, a team of volunteers have been working tirelessly to prepare the garden for the opening.

Designed by award-winning garden designer, James Alexander-Sinclair, who described the space as “The most meaningful garden I have ever designed.” Horatio’s Garden is made up of six distinct spaces, each with a different purpose and designed to stimulate different senses – sight, smell, touch and all providing a sense of wellbeing. The courtyard is at the heart of the unit and is accessible to everyone to enjoy.

There is a woodland garden overlooked by the wards to encourage wildlife into the garden, a play garden for children who are visiting relatives in the unit and a physiotherapy garden which will be functional as well as beautiful.

Stephen Martin, Head of Brewin Dolphin’s Glasgow office and Rosy Hardy, designer of Brewin Dolphin’s 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and winner of 21 gold medals handed over the Coccolith sculpture, which has been reimagined into 3 smaller sculptures, to better blend with the low-growing shrubbery of the scented garden.

According to Stephen Martin:  “Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Rosy Hardy were keen to create a legacy for the garden. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into the design and building them. In this instance it’s exciting to know that the garden will live on at the fabulous Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow and can be enjoyed by others for many years to come.”

This is the second legacy made by Brewin Dolphin to Horatio’s Garden.  It donated a mature beech hedge from its Chelsea winning garden 2012 designed by Clive West, to Horatio’s Garden in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, Salisbury District Hospital.

 

Cesar Manrique - a holiday surprise

Our 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal winning garden designer, Darren Hawkes, talks about how he stumbled across the work of Cesar Manrique.

Back at the tail end of Easter my wife and I decided to escape with our two girls for a week’s holiday and have some time together where gardens, garden design and the daily conversations about work wouldn’t occupy my time.  We opted for a week in a hotel in the quiet South West of Lanzarote.

After a couple of restful days getting to know the immediate area we headed off around the Island to see what we could find. Little did I realise but we were about to stumble upon the work of Cesar Manrique and have our senses invigorated by his wonderful spaces.  I was aware of Manrique’s geometric sculptures, but much to my shame had no knowledge of the spaces we were about to explore. 

Landscape architects and garden designers are always talking about the greater landscape and having an understanding of the vernacular. Manrique is someone who not only understands but has such an affinity with his Island materials that his ability to shape, manipulate and decorate the landscape borders on genius.  Walls that curve, slide and melt back into the volcanic lava lead the eye gently from one area to another.  Steps built from volcanic rock that have both an uneven sur-face and an irregular rise, fly in the face of modern commercial safety requirements  and instead challenge, forcing us to engage and remind us of the greatest of pleasures….play.

Our first destination was Manrique’s Cactus Garden, a huge elliptical walled garden with many ter-raced sides which are a home to a huge variety of species.  These could quite easily be stand-alone sculptures when you see the myriad of forms.  

Huge ball shaped Parodia sit together in front of giant Saguaro reminiscent of Box balls and fastig-iate Hornbeam with the warm tones and textual complexity of the honeycombed lava walls acting as foil behind.  Birds fly from roosting points on the upper terraces and people mill about with a look of wonder on their faces, transfixed by this oasis in the middle of the lava strewn landscape. Everywhere you look details in steel, stone and timber show a lack of censorship and a freedom of expression rarely enjoyed in the public realm.

If the Cactus garden was an eye-opener then Jameos Del Auga was a mindblower.  This is a space that you discover amid acres and acres of Euphobia obtusifolia and enter through a narrow passageway before opening out into a fern laden, open sided, cave / night club / gar-den/architectural wonder/ James Bond hideout, that made me smile so much I felt I may get jaw ache.  Plants used sparingly in the most specific spots allow them to be seen as art pieces in their own right.  Pools, hanging cages filled with ferns, manmade landscaping merging with natural stone all make for an enchanting experience. 

Being unexpectedly inspired is one of the greatest of treats in life and coming back from a holiday not only having rested but having found a renewed passion for ones work is more than I could have wished for. My clients can therefor expect a renewed commitment to detail and consistency of material but most importantly a reinvigorated sense of fun.

Building a Show Garden

Dan Riddleston from contractors Bowles & Wyer describes the complexities of building gardens like those at Chelsea Flower Show.

My first ever Chelsea garden, built over 20 years ago, was a lovely Mediterranean garden for the Sunday Times with Randle Siddeley.  It was a very tight budget of £25,000 – a fraction of the budgets nowadays.  Everything in that garden was begged, borrowed or stolen. At that time there weren’t that many large show gardens, ours was 10m x 10m and the stars of the show were the gardens on the rock bank with their rock water features and brightly coloured rhododendrons.

I was then fortunate enough to have worked alongside Waterers Landscape and subsequently Crocus on some of their gold medal winning gardens before Bowles and Wyer Contracts built our first garden in 2011. 

We worked for Tom Hoblyn on his Memories of Cornwall garden for Homebase for which we won a Silver Gilt medal. I was pleased with this result for our first garden, but really thought we’d done just enough to get gold.  The judges may not have quite interpreted it in the way it was intended but we all know they have to work to a set criteria and that’s just the way it is. This garden continues to live and now has a permanent residence at The Eden Project. 

The following year we worked for Tom again on his Italian Renaissance garden with a contemporary twist for Arthritis UK. This was perhaps the most challenging garden I have built at Chelsea with its many layers of water, just like its classical inspiration, Villa d'Este. There was a lot of construction with travertine stone with each stone numbered and the planting of some seriously large Italian Cyprus.  This was awarded another silver gilt medal, but with the added prize of being voted the ‘People’s Choice’ garden.

Working at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show can take its toll and can be disruptive to the running of a company if not managed well, so with a full order book we took time off in 2013.

In 2014 we started our relationship with Brewin Dolphin and their chosen designer for that year, Matthew Childs. This was Matthew’s first main avenue garden at Chelsea and like Tom Hoblyn’s Italian Renaissance garden technically very challenging. The garden was well received by the public and was awarded a silver gilt medal.

The following year brought another fresh face to Chelsea in the form of Brewin Dolphin garden designer Darren Hawkes.  It is always exciting to work with new and emerging talent and in Darren, we had someone who is extremely practical. We were given the challenge of building on the rock bank, something I had never done before and brought its own unique set of challenges. 

Construction was a much bigger excavation job than on the flats of Main Ave or Royal Hospital Way, the logistics are much greater as access is trickier and storage is extremely limited.  That said, Darren’s design for sponsor Brewin Dolphin was perfectly suited to such a situation. 

Darren’s inspiration came from Neolithic dolmens and the work of artist James Turrell.  Floating platforms and naturalistic planting were above an underground stream which flows into a pool. Woodland style planting comprised of ferns, aquilegia, and bleeding heart.  Elms were used for the first time in many years and were to represent those trees that continue to thrive in Cornwall despite Dutch elm disease.  

A larger than normal garden, with 22m frontage, this was too big a project to just turn up and start building. The floating platforms had in excess of 40,000 pieces of hand cut slate forming stepping stones over the stream and garden.  Building off site started in Cornwall in January, with a full size mock-up in timber and hardboard, and the painstaking cutting and gluing of slate. The garden was a great success and gained a gold medal, our first as Bowles and Wyer.
 
This year we worked with the wonderful Rosy Hardy. As in previous years we had been planning the build of the garden from as soon as we were approached in November 2015. The raised walkway was built off site by our engineers in Trowbridge and the Coccosphere by our model makers/sculptors in Teddington. We mocked up the gabion walls and spent hours in meetings working out the best way to build the garden. The end product was spectacular.