The M&G Garden was designed by James Basson and built by Crocus. The M&G Garden was awarded a Gold Medal, the Best Construction Award, and Best in Show, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017. I caught up with James Basson at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, to find out more about this special, award winning garden.
Beth: Are the plants going back to Malta afterwards?
James Basson: No, all of the plants are owned by Crocus, so they’ll take them back to the nursery. The plants were all shipped over – some came from Sicily, some came from Rome, some came from Malta from a nursery who were amazing – they had all these native plants that you’re not allowed to take out of Malta; but we got governmental permission to do it.
Beth: So the Maltese Government supported you and your work to build the garden?
JB: Absolutely, yes. And all the stone was cut in Malta, then shipped over, and then the Maltese came over and helped to install it here at Chelsea.
Beth: The surface of your limestone is different than I expected – I imagined it being rougher, like a cliff edge.
JB: Yes; if you look at photos of quarries, even after hundreds of years, they’ve got this kind of pristine feel, and so it is how it is. If you look up ‘Maltese Quarry’ you’ll see these sorts of lines; ‘Troy’ was filmed in them, ‘Gladiator’ was filmed in them, and they’re just these magnificent spaces.
Beth: How tall is the stone in the garden?
JB: That one is eight meters tall – and fifteen meters down, with piles to support it, to make sure it doesn’t move in the wind or anything.
Beth: Did you get any extra time to construct the garden?
JB: No. No extra time – we were going to have extra time, but for some reason it didn’t work, so we did it in time.
Beth: So you didn’t get an extra day, even though you had to finish a day earlier?
JB: No, everyone got an extra day.
Beth: What’s your favourite plant?
JB: There’s a little daisy called Pallenis spinosa, which looks… it’s just got this very golden flower to it, beautiful. I don’t know if you can see it from here – the plant might be over there, because we’ve planted the stand opposite too. It’s really a special one.
Beth: In last year’s garden you had the little snail shells scattered around. Do you have any other secrets like that around, last minute things?
JB: We do, we do have another kind of shell in the garden. It’s particular one you find all over the landscape in Malta, so we’ve scattered that all over the garden.
Beth: Are there any other secrets about the garden you can tell us?
JB: There’s lots of stories, like the knackered-looking tree up there is called a Tetraclinis articulata, and that is the national tree of Malta – and it’s a very hard thing to find. In my head, I wanted something really kind of gnarled, and old, and lots of character, and these ones were in the nursery car park to stop the trucks hitting the fence. I was like, “Oh my God, this is what I’ve been dreaming about!”
Beth: What is it about you and half-dead trees – you love them, don’t you?
JB: Yeah, I like it – I like natural beauty!
Beth: Me too, I love old apple trees, they’re just so beautiful, I think there’s really nothing for me as beautiful as that.