Jo Thompson's blog - 31st May

Jo Thompson's blog - 31st May

After months of planning we’re finally onsite within the magnificent grounds of Chatsworth House to build the Brewin Dolphin garden.

Two weeks in and we have just one more week to complete it, which on an unfamiliar site, and with the archaeological restrictions of the historic Chatsworth estate to take into account, means every second counts.

First to arrive, after we'd marked out our plot, were the trees.  I chose them months ago when they were completely bare so to see them arrive in full leaf and looking as splendid as I imagined was really exciting. You can never really picture the volume and colour they will bring until you see them in situ.

After a very wet and cold first few days on site, the weather’s now being kind to us.   Creating a show garden in the rain is never fun and brings added complications, so it’s been great to have a few days of sunshine to work in against the backdrop of the magnificent Chatsworth House.

One of the key moments was the installation of the 70m sculpture which forms the centerpiece of the garden.  Weighing 3.5 tonnes and made up of 700 steel bars, installing it was always going to be a complex process, made even more challenging because the sculpture cantilevers out over the River Derwent. The contractor and I had a moment last week when we thought it might not sweep out over the river in quite the way we planned, but thankfully I’m working with an amazing team who are all very experienced at building complicated gardens under difficult conditions, so I put my trust in them entirely and panic was averted!

Contemporary art and design has always been intrinsic to Chatsworth with successive generations of the Devonshire family having commissioned and displayed work from leading artists since the 17th century.  The current Duke and Duchess are no exception so installing a sculpture in the grounds of their magnificent home comes with an added sense of responsibility.  I hope that they agree that it does justice to the stunning setting.

With the trees and sculpture in place we can now concentrate on the planting.  I’ve got a wonderful team who will help me create the garden areas along the sculpture’s main frame.  We’re an all-female line up some of who have come from as far afield as New Zealand and Japan to help bring my vision to life.   It’s wonderful to see it all coming together but it won’t be until the last minute that I know exactly which plants I’m going to include.    Find out what I finally choose, and how I’m feeling as the first ever RHS Chatsworth opens its doors, in my next post.