Occupying one of the most high profile sites in this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, between the main entrance to the Floral Marquee and the BBC’s broadcasting hub, was the RHS’ own Bridgewater garden.
Created to introduce the RHS’ new garden at Salford to the Chelsea crowds, and to give a taste of what visitors can expect to see there, it was a garden accessible from every side, and onto which visitors were welcome to wander, sit, and absorb the surroundings.
When it opens to the public next summer, RHS Bridgewater will be the first new RHS garden for over twenty years, the previous one being Devon’s RHS Rosemoor, which was donated to the RHS in 1998.
Dating from the 1840s, Worsley New Hall in Salford, Greater Manchester, was a notable grand residence of its era, even being visited by both Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. However, after the house was demolished in the late 1940s, the formal landscaped gardens fell into disrepair.
Having received planning permission to create a new RHS garden in June 2017, the project to rejuvenate the 156 acre estate is currently one of the largest ongoing gardening projects in Europe.
The Chelsea showpiece featured lots of plants suitable for Bridgewater’s damp, mossy ground, such as iris siberica, camassia and rodgersia. Paths on all sides of the curved triangular plot gave an open, inviting feel, while beautiful flowering cornus kousa brought a sense of cosy privacy to some areas. Clipped beech domes referenced the specimen trees which will be a feature of the Salford garden. At one end a richly-planted perennial meadow was a riot of colour and abuzz with insects. The overall impression was one of great variety, and sensitive planting on a site of perhaps challenging ground.
The Chelsea garden was described as a collage of the areas of RHS Bridgewater around the new Welcome building and was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, the designer behind the rejuvenation of the Worsley New Hall site, including the eleven acre historic walled garden.
This magnificent walled garden is sure to be one of the highlights of the new site. Intriguingly, this will be a garden-within-a-garden. There are three distinct areas, from an outer garden surrounded by a low wall, to an inner enclosed garden with high walls all around, and the design and planting has been planned to be gradually more intense and colourful as the visitor progresses.
At one end of the walled garden will be a paradise garden, designed again by Tom Stuart-Smith, no doubt including the traditional elements of Islamic garden design, such as immaculate symmetry, still water for reflections, rills, fruit trees, greenery and scented flowers, possibly a pavilion… we can’t wait to see it.
The new RHS garden aims to enrich the community in a variety of ways. Set within just 20 minutes of Manchester city centre, it’s an important green lung for the area, with a new Learning Centre where schools can grow their horticultural knowledge; a space for communities to come together with plant experts, a Plant Centre and space for a personal RHS Gardening Advice Service.
It’s not an easy task to pack 156 acres into a Chelsea show garden, but the RHS Bridgewater garden this year succeeded at whetting the appetite. We can’t wait to explore the new RHS garden when it opens next summer.
Read more about the new RHS Bridgewater garden on the RHS website.