Andy Sturgeon and The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden was designed by Andy Sturgeon and built by Crocus.  The RHS judges presented The Telegraph Garden with a Gold Medal, and the coveted award of Best in Show.

Remembering the sense of awe and wonderment that he felt visiting The National History Museum, for the first time as a child, Andy Sturgeon has used his childhood memories as the inspiration for his design for The Telegraph Garden.  Andy has created a garden that will evoke delight and interest in both children and adults alike.  

The Telegraph Garden featured smooth limestone paths, a bridge and an island, all made of smooth limestone. Natural limestone boulders also featured in The Telegraph Garden, which was designed by Andy Sturgeon for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

The Telegraph Garden featured smooth limestone paths, a bridge and an island, all made of smooth limestone. Natural limestone boulders also featured in The Telegraph Garden, which was designed by Andy Sturgeon for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

The Telegraph Garden has been specifically designed to cope with climate change and the increasingly dry conditions that some gardeners face.  The dramatic bronze fins that feature in the garden, represent an ancient mountain range, with a stream of melt water below.  Andy Sturgeon has selected a variety of unusual plants for The Telegraph Garden, all of which are found growing in arid conditions, though not usually together – the plants featured in this garden originate from 32 different countries.  

Schinus molle is an evergreen tree, it's a native of the Peruvian Andes known for the strong wood that it produces. Schinus molle is a dioecious tree - the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Pictured in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Schinus molle is an evergreen tree, it’s a native of the Peruvian Andes known for the strong wood that it produces. Schinus molle is a dioecious tree – the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Pictured in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Andy Sturgeon was inspired by the dramatic geological changes that have taken place during the life time of the earth, and how these events have shaped and changed the landscape.  The Telegraph Garden reminds us all that we are only present here for a fleeting moment, in relation to the long life cycle of the earth. 

Garden designer Andy Sturgeon was awarded a Gold Medal and the coveted award of Best in Show, for the fabulous Show Garden he designed for The Telegraph, at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  I caught up with Andy Sturgeon, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to find out more about The Telegraph Garden.

Andy Sturgeon pictured in The Telegraph Garden, which was awarded a Gold Medal and the coveted award of Best in Show, by the RHS judges, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Andy Sturgeon pictured in The Telegraph Garden, which was awarded a Gold Medal and the coveted award of Best in Show, by the RHS judges, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

PB: Do you have a favourite area of your garden?

AS: Well, I’ve got one – the fire pit bowl area is a favourite place to be, but my favourite view is from the front of the garden, looking right the way down to the far corner.

The fire pit that featured in The Telegraph Garden was created by blacksmith James Price. This area around the fire pit is Andy Sturgeon's favourite place to be in The Telegraph Garden. Arbutus unedo, also known as the strawberry tree due to the colour of its ripe fruits, is pictured in the foreground.

The fire pit that featured in The Telegraph Garden was created by blacksmith James Price. This area around the fire pit is Andy Sturgeon’s favourite place to be in The Telegraph Garden. Arbutus unedo, also known as the strawberry tree due to the colour of its ripe fruits, is pictured in the foreground.

PB: And are you pleased with how The Telegraph Garden has turned out?

AS: Yeah, there’s nothing that I’d want to be better – and I don’t think I can often say that.

Schinus molle, Dianella revoluta 'Little Rev', Digitalis canariensis, Ridolfia segetum, Libertia peregrinans 'Gold Leaf', Euphorbia, and Sporobolus heterolepis, pictured in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Schinus molle, Dianella revoluta ‘Little Rev’, Digitalis canariensis, Ridolfia segetum, Libertia peregrinans ‘Gold Leaf’, Euphorbia, and Sporobolus heterolepis, pictured in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

PB: Did you have any issues with the bronze fins in your garden?

AS: No… well, we did actually, one of the fins – because of the budget some of the fins are powder-coated with a much cheaper spray on the back; I mean, it’s really good – and you can hardly tell, but some of them are only patinated on the front.  We went to great lengths when we had them fabricated, we did an awful lot of drawings for this garden, and on the leg of each one it was welded on which is the front, and they did it the wrong way around. They were all wrapped up, you see, and we installed them all, they were all protected, and because we’d gone to such great lengths to make sure they didn’t get it wrong we trusted it, and when the time came, we took it all off – it was the first one we uncovered, and everyone went “Ah, that looks really good” and I said “no it doesn’t, it’s the wrong colour”. We had to send it to Ipswich and get it re-done.

The orange tones of the Canary Island foxglove, Digitalis canariensis, combined beautifully with the warm-toned, bronze fins that were a prominent feature of The Telegraph Garden. The fins are designed to represent an ancient mountain range, they are also reminiscent of the stegosaurus's bony plates that highlight their bodies, just as these fins highlight the garden. I enjoyed seeing the pretty, white, star-shaped flowers of Jaborosa integrifolia, a native plant of South America, in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

The orange tones of the Canary Island foxglove, Digitalis canariensis, combined beautifully with the warm-toned, bronze fins that were a prominent feature of The Telegraph Garden. The fins are designed to represent an ancient mountain range, they are also reminiscent of the stegosaurus’s bony plates that highlight their bodies, just as these fins highlight the garden. I enjoyed seeing the pretty, white, star-shaped flowers of Jaborosa integrifolia, a native plant of South America, in The Telegraph Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

PB: The colours of your fins are so good now.  I don’t know the name of the little orange foxglove like plant in front, what’s that called?

AS: Well, it’s a Canary Island foxglove, it’s really nice, and it brings out the colour of the fins, doesn’t it?

Digitalis canariensis, also known as the Canary Island foxglove, pictured in the Gold Medal winning Telegraph Garden. This award-winning Show Garden was designed by Andy Sturgeon. The RHS judges chose The Telegraph Garden as The Best in Show, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Digitalis canariensis, also known as the Canary Island foxglove, pictured in the Gold Medal winning Telegraph Garden. This award-winning Show Garden was designed by Andy Sturgeon. The RHS judges chose The Telegraph Garden as The Best in Show, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

PB: Yes, it really does; I can understand your love of bronze now – when I first met you I didn’t really relate to it, but I get it now.

AS: Well, it’s got a class about it – it’s sophisticated.

PB: Yes, it has kind of got a depth and an authenticity to it.

AS: …and a warmth, an age, and it just has a gravitas.  I used Cor-Ten here in 2001

PB: I am just trying to picture your garden in 2001…..

AS: It was a curved thing.  And people have used it since, and there’s still Cor-Ten on the sculpture stand – in Chelsea terms, that’s a long time.  So you have to kind of move on.  It’s funny, the show manager told me there were six gardens submitted that said they had bronze in them, and none of them could afford it – we were the only ones who could keep bronze through to the show.

PB: So the other garden designers all had to drop it?

AS: Yes, they all had to go for alternatives.

PB: Do you have any planting combinations that you particularly enjoy in this garden?

AS: Well, yes, there’s a thing called Catananche caerulea ‘Tizi n Test’, and it’s a sort of pale violety floaty thing, quite low.

PB: I don’t know if I saw that.

AS: The thing about it, it’s quite subtle but it’s there, and I’ve dotted it around, it’s up near the front here.  Shall we go and have a look?

AS: If you look here, you can see this is the Catananche here hanging over, you can see the open flowers and the closed flowers, and with the salvia there, and then you’ve got this low-grown plant, and then beyond the little Centaurea, slightly more pinky, so that combination, I’ve drifted it across there – that’s my favourite bit, because it was unexpected.

Ozothamnus diosmifolius, Cistus × dansereaui 'Decumbens', Centaurea bella, Catananche caerulea 'Tizi n Test', Juncus effusus, and Sophora 'Little Baby' combine beautifully in The Telegraph Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. The water in The Telegraph Garden represents a stream of melt water, which runs into the rock strewn gorge below.

Ozothamnus diosmifolius, Cistus × dansereaui ‘Decumbens’, Centaurea bella, Catananche caerulea ‘Tizi n Test’, Juncus effusus, and Sophora ‘Little Baby’ combine beautifully in The Telegraph Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. The water in The Telegraph Garden represents a stream of melt water, which runs into the rock strewn gorge below.

PB: I just want to check with you that I have the artists and crafts people you’ve used listed? Is there any that I don’t have the details for?

AS: Umm, actually no, I think you’ve got everything.  The renderer, the guy who did the wall, I’ve not told you about him.  He’s called Ray, but I don’t know anything about him other than his name’s Ray.  I was never told his second name!

PB: He’s so famous, he doesn’t need a surname!  After Chelsea, where will your garden go?

AS: Well, the plants will go back to the nursery, and they’ll literally just go off for sale.

PB: The Crocus sale?

AS: Yeah.  Well, I hope that some of the fins will go into my garden.

PB: Really?  Which ones will you have?

AS: Well, they’re not technically mine.  But you need to have a group, so you can see.  I’ve got quite a small garden, so I’d need to downsize for my garden.

The Telegraph Garden featured boulders of limestone, which were naturally formed in the Jurassic era. This type of stone is rich in fossils, one of these boulders in The Telegraph Garden even features a large fossil of an ammonite.

The Telegraph Garden featured boulders of limestone, which were naturally formed in the Jurassic era. This type of stone is rich in fossils, one of these boulders in The Telegraph Garden even features a large fossil of an ammonite.

PB: You’ve used a lot of stone and different materials in your garden….

AS: Okay.  People have asked about this, because we covered it up.  See the wall over the back over there.  Those stones are 100mm thick, and they’re much much taller than you can see, because there’s a lot underground.  They were very difficult to put in, and they went in quite late, because of the way we had to do everything.  We came in, in the morning, and half of it had fallen over, and flattened the plants.  So that was a challenge!

PB: Oh no!  You would never know now.  Had people asked you if they’d fallen over?

AS: Somehow word got out, but I’ve denied it to everyone, apart from you.

PB: I heard that you were working quite late, because you had a lot to do.

AS: We were behind for ages, because we had a lot to do.  We were behind for ages and then we suddenly caught up.

PB: It looks so good though, you must be so pleased.  I’m so pleased for you!

AS: Thank you very much.

PB: Do you have a favourite garden apart from yours?

AS: Cleve West’s garden for M&G is my favourite.

In The Telegraph Garden, Andy Sturgeon has teamed plants together that originate from a variety of different arid environments. This garden is not a recreation of an existing landscape - these plants are not found growing together in nature. This is a creation of a new landscape, that exists only in this garden, featuring plants that require similar growing conditions, that inspired Andy when he discovered them on his travels.

In The Telegraph Garden, Andy Sturgeon has teamed plants together that originate from a variety of different arid environments. This garden is not a recreation of an existing landscape – these plants are not found growing together in nature. This is a creation of a new landscape, that exists only in this garden, featuring plants that require similar growing conditions, that inspired Andy when he discovered them on his travels.

A shortened version of this interview was first published in the July 2016 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

Other articles that may interest you…………………

To see the planting list for The Telegraph Garden, that Andy Sturgeon designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To see the top 20 shortlisted plants, including the finalists, and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2016, please click here.

To see photographs from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To see photographs from the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, please click here.

To read about the UNHCR: ‘Border Control’ Garden, designed by Tom Massey and John Ward, for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To find out about about the M&G Garden, that Cleve West designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To find out about some of the specialist, award-winning nurseries that were at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To see photographs of some of the decorated shop fronts from Chelsea in Bloom 2016, please click here.

To read about the Butterfly Dome at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To read about the Big Butterfly Count 2016, please click here.

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