Kate Gould, Keith Chapman, and the City Living Garden

City Living was designed by Kate Gould and built by Kate Gould Gardens.  The RHS judges presented this Fresh Garden with a Gold Medal, and the prestigious title of Best Fresh Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
One of the planters inside the City Living Fresh Garden, this container features Hosta, Aspleniums and Begonia.

Garden designer Kate Gould is passionate about greening up derelict, uncared for and unloved inner city spaces.  Kate is so passionate about Greening Grey Britain, that she has self funded the entire build for this Fresh Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, to inform others as to how they can improve their city living.  Differing from the other Fresh Gardens, this complex design structure demonstrates how apartment blocks can maximise their outdoor areas.  City Living features a series of private, greened spaces, which are built across three different levels, to represent an apartment block.

The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions.
The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions.

I am 100% in support of Kate Gould and her self-funded design – City Living.  I love to see the use of innovative and sustainable materials, and it’s a real joy to meet someone with a true passion and determination to make things better.  This beautiful garden – The City Living Garden, which was awarded a Gold Medal and the title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS Judges at the world’s most prestigious flower show, is available for purchase, please contact the garden’s designer, Kate Gould for more details.

A closer look at the sculpture designed by Michael Speller, pictured in the City Living Fresh Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

I was thrilled to meet up with Garden designer Kate Gould, and Project Manager Keith Chapman, to find out more about the City Living Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

Pumpkin Beth: I really want to say, I think it’s just amazing that you did it yourself…

Kate Gould: I didn’t, they built it!

PB: I know, but I mean that you did it, created all of this without a massive sponsor, and all the rest of it, because you have the passion to make things better.

KG: We’re all on baked beans in the office for the next year…. 

Garden Designer Kate Gould and Project Manager Keith Chapman, pictured outside the City Living Garden they created, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
A closer look at one of the green walls which surrounded the City Living Fresh Garden, which was designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: Is there any aspect of the garden that you’re most proud of?

KG: That’s really difficult. I think the achievement of finishing – I’m proud of what they’ve all achieved.  Because in fourteen days, regardless of what it looks like, Keith Chapman pulled together the most amazing team of people. 

PB: Do you have any planting combinations you’re particularly fond of?

KG: Yes, up there is some Salvias and Geums which are lovely, you see that a lot in the show ground.  And this is a Rhaphiolepis, which is also a really nice plant, and it smells lovely too – I’ve never used it before, but I think it’s a really pretty plant. 

The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions. These Geums and Salvias are basking in the hot sunshine found on the upper levels.

PB: Who grew the plants for your garden?

KG: Kelways, Hortus Loci, and the trees are from Deepdale.

One of the green walls which surrounded the City Living Fresh Garden, which was designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: And what happens to everything after the show? 

KG: We’re hoping we’re going to find a home for it, but at the moment it looks like it’s just going to be disassembled.

PB: Oh, goodness, we need to find somebody to come along and offer to buy it!

KG: I hope so.

PB: Do you have room to have it in your own garden?

KG: Sadly not, it’s too small.

The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, was awarded with a Gold Medal and the prestigious title of Best Fresh Garden.

 PB: What other features does the garden offer?

KG: Did Keith tell you about the fiber-optic wall?  There’s over 80,000 individual fibres in it; we cut down 3.8 miles of fibre-optic cable into 75mm cables, and then Lauren who works in the office had to plug them all in, bless her.  She’s got no fingertips left, just little stumpy hands.  But at night it looks amazing!

This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: Do you have a favourite garden at the show?

KG: Chris Beardshaw’s garden is my favourite. 

This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: Are you going to work with any developers to make it greener in towns and cities?

KG: Well, that’s the idea – that we open up people’s eyes to try and make small, complicated little spaces, that would otherwise just be concreted, greener.  Even if you’ve just got a block of flats with nine flats, if you can bring people together to garden communally, it means that they’re going to take care of the areas better.  My neighbour sweeps my front, therefore I sweep my front, and so on.  Nigel Dunnett came over, and said “We’re the only two urban gardeners here”. 

The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions.

Keith Chapman, the Project Manager for this Gold Medal winning, Best Fresh Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, told me more about this special urban garden.

Pumpkin Beth:  I’d love to know all about the garden Keith.

Keith Chapman: This is City Living, it’s Kate Gould’s version of Greening Grey Britain.  This entrance here, it’s the equivalent of going into a tower block – like the entrance way to a block of flats.  So what we’ve got is apartments one to three are down there, four to six are on the mezzanine level, and then seven and eight are on the top floor.  This garden is about how you use these areas, how to green up areas, and about putting planting in place to brighten up an otherwise dark, dingy corner.  Kate has designed the garden with specifically chosen shade tolerant plants in this area, that would survive in low light levels, and are tolerant to it all.  The top is tropical, the lower level is sub-tropical, and the middle is a mix of both.

You can see the sustainable, bamboo decking we’ve fitted here, and basically that runs throughout the build.  The facia that you see everywhere on this garden, is also made of a composite bamboo.  All the dark wood is basically shredded up bamboo compressed with resin, so it’s as hard as nails.  If you try and screw into it, it’s like screwing into a hardwood.  It comes with these little clips that help it come together, and hold together, and make it work – so it’s a very sustainable timber to use; very expensive, but very sustainable.

The pattern on the metal screens matches the pattern on the stair treds.
The ground floor of the City Living Fresh Garden. This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: Is there a cohesive design which links the gardens on every level together?

Yes, we’ve got the same patterns going throughout the whole garden.  So the pattern on the step-tread is carried over, you can see the same pattern on the metal screens which divide the garden, it’s on the decorative drain as well; it’s everywhere through the whole garden!

Steps up to the mezzanine in the City Living garden. You can see the step treads carry through the same pattern as the oxidised metal screens.

We’ve got trees at every level; to show that you can plant at height as well on the ground.  It was a bit of a mission getting the tree up and anchoring them all down, but it’s to show what you can do.

PB: How have you anchored the trees down?

KC: Just with a Platipus system.

Looking up, from the ground, to the Quercus suber tree growing at the higher level in the City Living Garden.
One of the green walls which surrounded the City Living Fresh Garden, which was designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: It sounds great, I am excited about this garden too!  Is this your favourite garden you’ve worked on? 

KC: It is actually. Because it’s the most challenging, the most different, and the most fancy, it really is.  That wall there: we made it.  It’s got 3.8 miles of fiber-optic cables in it.  We polished it all up, and at night it’s back-lit, it looks stunning!

PB: Wow, it looks like crystal!

KC: Yes, it looks absolutely amazing!  It looks better at night – you can’t really see it in the daytime.  It’s lit at the moment, but it’s just so bright out here, that you really can’t see it.  So we made a feature out of what would be a standard crappy concrete block wall.  You can clad it anyway you want, too.  

The green walls – we made them so they’d be sustainable, and the plants would have room to grow.  Often planted green walls they look really sad and the plants die, don’t they?  We actually made these big troughs – they’re a fair-size – it takes three guys to lift one of them into place.  But it means you’ve got a planter that people could realistically use, plant up, and the plants would actually live.  You can get a proper depth for the plants’ roots.

A closer look at Begonia rex growing in one of the green walls which surrounded the City Living Fresh Garden, which was designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
One of the green walls which surrounded the City Living Fresh Garden, which was designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions.
This Fresh Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, and the coveted title of Best Fresh Garden, by the RHS judges at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

PB: So what made you decide to think ‘I know, if I do a Fresh Garden but with more construction than any Main Avenue Show garden.’… How did that decision come about?

KC: And less time, don’t forget… We wanted more time, but the RHS said no.

PB: Did you have any problems during the build that you couldn’t resolve?

KC:  No, we’ve fixed everything.  The angle-poise lamp is held together with a broom handle – they lent it to us for the show, but didn’t provide a bolt, so we had to put it together with a broom through it!

The City Living Fresh Garden, designed by Kate Gould, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, featured urban gardens on three different levels, each level replicated planting for different growing conditions.

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