The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital was designed by Chris Beardshaw. This garden was awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS judges at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. I caught up with Chris Beardshaw, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, to find out more about this special garden.
B: How much input have Great Ormond Street had towards the design of their garden?
CB: Well, right form the beginning we got engaged with not only the clinicians, the hospital, but also the hospital teams, the parents, and of course the children, and all those that work at the hospital. We had meetings with focus groups, to try and understand how the hospital works, the general ethos, and what their aims and ambitions were for a garden space. So they were really key to the whole process, the discussions that we had centred around the fact that they wanted essentially a space to sit and relax, to think, and to gain a different perspective on the situation that they find themselves in. To have a degree of separation from the pressures of the hospital. And that applied as much to the clinicians as much as it did to the parents. At the moment, parents who have a child that is in surgery, or is undergoing consultation, the only place they can go and sit is in a café, so there is no external space.
B: I didn’t know that Great Ormond Street Hospital didn’t have a garden for the patients, and parents of the patients to use – I had assumed they had a garden. Did you know for a long time that they didn’t have one?
CB: Well, Morgan Stanley have had for a long time an association with Great Ormond Street Hospital and have been instrumental in creating a new building there, and the new building looks down into this space, so it was a knock-on effect of the architectural involvement that Morgan Stanley have had, that the garden came into fruition really. And when we went to see the hospital for the first time there were 2-3 other spaces within the hospital that we looked at…
B: Oh, so they could have other gardens too?
CB: Potentially, yes. But we looked at the various spaces and just thought actually this is where this is heading, this is the most challenging space, but it’s the one that offers the most rewards.
B: The size of the show garden – is this indicative of the space that the final garden will be?
CB: The planted space is about the same as you see here, but there are extensions in terms of paving and terraces and other planted areas. As an example, the total planted space here is about 120 sq/m here, but we’ve got about 180 sq/m over at Great Ormond Street Hospital, so it’s slightly larger, and we do have terraces and seating and pathways and so on that go around the garden, so visitors to the hospital will be able to view it from this side where we are now – the short side – but also the long side too, so the views will be very similar.
B: So what will you do as you won’t be able to include the water in the hospital garden?
CB: We’re going to extend the planting out, and there will be a river of planting coming down from the pavilion, so most of it will be exactly the same, as you say there are some elements that are more difficult to take because of the logistics and because of the ongoing issues of maintenance, but it will be intrinsically the same.
B: Are the Camassias from Hare Spring Cottage Plants, the nursery who supplied the Camassia for your last Chelsea garden?
CB: No, they’re actually not. They’re actually our Camasias that went back to the nursery last year, that didn’t make it into last year’s garden, they’re second year flowering which is why most of them have two spikes – they tend to increase in vigour. We wanted them for the vertical element and the uniting factor through the garden, and you know the principal of the garden is that not everything in the garden is in flower at the same time. We wanted to play with structures and textures, and you seek the flowers, and once you spot the flowers – like the Primula bulleyana here – for instance the Hosta is consuming and suddenly you see the Primula bulleyana and then there’s more than one, and then another one and another one; that sense of discovery after allowing the eye to wander, how you skip between the various batches of the ranunculus, that’s what we were trying to achieve.
B: I love the softness of the planting. I also am impressed at how good you’re getting at artwork – I love the oak leaves.
CB: Oh, yeah, it took me a while to draw that out, yeah. I did it on the computer, I knew exactly what I was trying to achieve. Of course in a woodland context, oak is so important, it is the father of the woodland, it’s the most revered of all the trees, in terms of folk law it has the most stories associated with it, and in terms of wildlife it’s the biggest supporter of wildlife, so there’s lots of positive things to be brought out of the use of oak, but of course growing oak on a roof in the middle of London isn’t necessarily the best thing. So we wanted to utilize the oak as a symbol of strength and resilience, and a symbol of hope, and that’s where the oak structure and the oak leaves come from. So I drew out the fretwork of the oak leaves and sent it off to a friend of mine who’s a metal-basher down in south wales.
B: Is that Nigel Ferguson Fabrications who did the metalwork on last year’s garden – the ones who don’t have a website?
CB: Yes, the ones without a website!
B: What about the sculptures?
CB: We have two different sculptors this year – in fact, Jilly was a paediatric nurse and her father was a plantsman who used to exhibit at Chelsea. I knew this piece of work, as a client has got a resin piece of this artwork in their garden. It’s a lovely piece of work, so that one was already in existence. And then John O’Connor who’s just down the way here, we described to him what we were after, and Joy, the little girl who’s dancing on the water lilies, that’s a commissioned piece.
B: And so will that go to Great Ormond Street Hospital?
CB: Well, the idea is that as people see the sculptures we encourage somebody who likes them to buy them and gift them to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
B: Do you have a favourite area of the garden?
CB: It’s difficult, because when we were planting the garden we had a very clear idea of what each space is supposed to do, so for instance in front of the ‘Fallen Deodar’ we wanted it to be relatively modest and the planting to be very subdued, to not conflict with the sculpture, so this valley of plants framed by the Taxus is quite interesting and makes a lovely photograph. But similarly looking in through the oak pavilion here at ‘Joy’, we deliberately went green, so it’s just texture, there’s no colour through there other than green and the texture of the foliage, so that’s a really delightful area. But then these cross views where you see Hesperis dancing on to Hesperis onto Hesperis, you know that type of thing is lovely.
B: Who else has been growing plants for you this year?
CB: The trees, topiary and hedging are from Mattheus from Deepdale, and James Chichester down on the south coast has grown all our herbaceous plants. So it’s two nurseries.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To read about the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC, which was designed by Chris Beardshaw for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw at the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and find out more about The Morgan Stanley Garden, please click here.
To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and find out more about The Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, please click here.
To see photographs from the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, please click here.
To read about some of the award winning specialist nurseries from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.
To see some of the decorated shop fronts and floral art from Chelsea in Bloom 2016, please click here.
For information and ideas of long flowering container plants that will attract bees and butterflies to your garden, please click here.
To read about the new rose introductions from David Austin Roses for 2016/2017, please click here.
For information on beautiful, edible plants to grow in your garden or at your allotment, please click here.
For gardening advice and lovely ideas for your garden or allotment from mid May to mid June, please click here.
For gardening advice tips and ideas of what you could do in your garden, or at your allotment from mid June to mid July, please click here.
For a 2016 calendar of specialist plant fairs, festivals, sales and swaps, please click here.