Rosy Hardy’s Gardening Blog

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.