Postcards from Chelsea: part 3
One of the joys of the Chelsea Flower Show is that you can completely immerse yourself in floral loveliness; every way you look, there's more to discover. Leaving our stand next to Welcome to Yorkshire garden and heading along Main Avenue, the lush greenery of Chris Beardshaw's Morgan Stanley garden repeatedly caught my eye.
During the weekend of the build up, this garden kept luring me back to watch how the changing light played over the fabulous, rich and varied planting. Late on Saturday evening, as the sun was dropping and the wind was picking up after a day of sunshine and showers, I visited it to watch the light slanting through the cooler, greener end of the garden. A man in hi-vis appeared next to me, holding a handful of canes, and I realised that it was the garden's creator, Chris Beardshaw. He was checking to see how the taller plants were faring in the strengthening breeze, in case any needed staking up overnight.
He very kindly gave an overview of the concept behind the garden, and said how much he'd enjoyed working with the phenomenal talent of the young musicians of the National Youth Orchestra. A challenging concept, to convey music in a garden, but it makes perfect sense. The two arts have much in common; a similar language, a structure of repeated but varied rhythms - and a similar emotional impact.
Chris had worked with Lauren Marshall, young composer at the NYO, to help her 'tune in' to garden structure. A trip to Hidcote with Chris gave her an overview of classical garden design and left her with the challenge of translating his garden into music form. The result is a new work, 'Suspended Between Earth and Air', that was premiered on Monday in the garden's central performance area.
Such a wonderful concept, and such artistry; but someone still has to do the work! I mentioned I'd been pleased to see one of his team using our mid-handled tools in the garden. In fact, I've seen the mid handled tools at work in several show gardens this year. The professionals told me they like the leverage these tools achieve, even when working kneeling down.
Chris volunteered that he loves our pruning knife. He still has the same Burgon & Ball knife, in fact, that he acquired as a student, and it's still his knife of choice for taking cuttings. "You know how sometimes you pick something up, and it just feels right in your hand?" he said. Yes... we do.
I spotted Meconopsis among the plants at the shady end of garden. I became obsessed with this blue beauty at Chelsea last year, but with a sandy and free-draining garden, I've resigned myself to failure, unable to provide the moisture and very nutrient-rich soil these Himalayan poppies need. However, Chris assured me that all is not lost; as a last resort, he suggests I try planting them on my compost heap! Well, desperate times call for desperate measures...
Chris' garden was awarded a Silver Gilt by the RHS judges. A slightly controversial decision, as it's certainly been hugely well received by visitors to the show. A 'garden' in the truest sense of the word, in a show where there has perhaps been an increasing influence of 'landscape'.
Congratulations to Chris on his silver-gilt winning garden; an extraordinary composition.