The Morgan Stanley Garden was designed by Chris Beardshaw, and built by Chris Beardshaw Ltd, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017. I met Chris Beardshaw at The Morgan Stanley Garden, where I was interested to learn more about this show garden.
Firstly, here is some information about this Show Garden, but read on for a mini interview with Garden Designer, Chris Beardshaw himself!
This is the third year that Morgan Stanley and Chris Beardshaw have collaborated for a Chelsea Flower Show Garden. Morgan Stanley invited The National Youth Orchestra to work together with Chris Beardshaw and Morgan Stanley, for this year’s Morgan Stanley Garden, which has a central theme of education.
The National Youth Orchestra’s Principle Composer, Lauren Marshall, composed a new piece of music, which was inspired by the design of The Morgan Stanley Garden. This piece was performed by the National Youth Orchestra, on a specially designed oak performance loggia in the Morgan Stanley Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
In The Morgan Stanley Garden, the native British tree Acer Campestre forms part of a serene woodland area, which is densely underplanted planted with perennials. The tapestry of greens in this soothing area of the garden are enhanced by the soft, unclipped specimens of Taxus baccata and Buxus sempervirens.
In contrast, the formal, bright, and open terrace features more formal looking, clipped Taxus baccata specimens, and a characterful Pinus sylvestris tree. These are underplanted with bright and more vividly coloured flowers, which reflect the communal aspect of this side of the garden – with its design as a place for an orchestra to perform to, and receive an audience.
For more information about Pinus sylvestris, please click here.
Over the past year or more, Chris Beardshaw has heavily immersed himself in the composition of The Morgan Stanley Garden. Chris worked with Morgan Stanley and the National Youth Orchestra, exploring the relationship between gardens, plants, and music, relating different areas of gardens, their planting patterns, and rhythms, to the patterns and rhythms found in music and choreography, to see how far the similarities ran.
Chris grew plants for The Morgan Stanley Garden himself, he created the garden’s design in its entirety, and his own company, Chris Beardshaw Ltd, built the garden. I could go on to list more ways that Chris Beardshaw has submerged himself, and his life for the past year or more into this Show Garden, but suffice to say that Chris has worked on every aspect of this garden’s design and production. It’s clear how great an investment has been made by Chris.
Chris Beardshaw is a previous Gold Medal winning garden designer, he has also worked as an RHS judge. Chris understands the Royal Horticultural Society’s judging system, he knows what the judges are looking for and how the points are accumulated and awarded.
Being awarded a Silver Gilt Medal for a Show Garden, on Main Avenue, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a great, amazing, and fantastic achievement. Many talented garden designers would be over the moon with this award, and deservedly so, but naturally we all aspire and work towards achieving the top award – the Gold Medal, and probably Best in Show too! When you’ve achieved these fantastic life goals and have realised your dreams before, and have then in the following year, or years, been unsuccessful in attaining the top award – or as unsuccessful as a Silver-Gilt award can be – it’s natural to be disappointed.
We each put ourselves under pressure to achieve the best we can. Garden designers at Chelsea are under a huge amount of pressure, they naturally long to win the top awards for themselves, for their family and friends. This pressure is combined with the expectation and hope to realise a Gold Medal for the garden’s sponsor’s, for the team who worked on the garden, and those associated with it.
By helping the National Youth Orchestra to explore their own emotional responses to the garden, Chris surely will have opened up to his own personal emotional responses, realising just how important this garden means to him personally. In days of working long hours, pushing intensively through realms of tiredness, there were undoubtedly many reminders for Chris of how much of himself he was investing of himself in The Morgan Stanley Garden. So it’s only natural, after all of this endeavour and accomplishment, if Chris is disappointed with the RHS judges award of a Silver Gilt Medal.
Reality is subjective, our own reality and perception differs from that of our neighbour. We all have off days, and we all make mistakes, RHS judges and garden designers included.
Pumpkin Beth: Chris, what’s your favourite area of the garden?
Chris Beardshaw: Oh, it’s very difficult isn’t it, crikey – it’s a bit like saying, “Do you have a favourite child?!” They all have very different personalities and character traits. I think at this time of the day when the sun is just starting to come through, this end of the terrace is great, but equally the dappled light in the woodland is also lovely. And when it gets too hot I stand under the loggia, so they all have their part to play – that’s the key in a good garden, I think is that every component should have its own inherent value and quality, and if it performs in the way you intend, then it’s cohesive and holds itself together.
PB: Did you design the loggia, as well as the garden?
CB: Yes, the loggia is my design, it’s based on the geometry of nature, fractal geometry. I wanted to explore a semi-covered and semi-enclosed space for musical performance, and that was very much the intention. Because this part of the garden, the structure, the walls, and some of the structural planting is going off to a school in East London, as an outdoor performance space for music, theatre, and art, so that was very much at the back of my mind when I was designing it. And it had to conform to the general theme of nature, the fractal geometry.
PB: Did you have to do any scientific research into the acoustics?
CB: Well, because it’s so open, and the roof is uplifting, the projection is very much out, so it was very much one of those things that the structure itself is so open, that you don’t get any sound bounce within there.
PB: Do you have a favourite plant in the garden?
CB: Again, it depends on the time of the day and what you feel. I think the one I was most joyous to come into flower was Peony ‘Krinkled White’, the one here on the corner. Just the simple bowl of peony, single flowers, beautiful fragrance, fabulous yellow stamens and anthers, I think it’s one of those things that… peonies are always a joy, and to create a clump of them like that so they just sit, calming the hot colours down, is fabulous.
PB: What do you think about the show this year, in terms of numbers of gardens etc?
CB: You never know how many gardens are going to be here until you arrive, and there’s very little interaction between gardens – there’s collaboration in terms of machinery, and you know, we might borrow machines and whatever, but you know, you’re so focused on what you’re doing, you genuinely don’t look up. So I think it’s one of those things. It’s great to be in this spot, spun round – 22m on Main Avenue as a main frontage, it hasn’t been done before, so that’s quite a challenge. It puts the pressure on – it’s not only 22 meters that way, but then you’ve got 10m on either end, and then you’ve got 44 linear meters of path. Edging is the most difficult thing to do, because it’s all about the presentation of the plants; when you have gardens that are long and thin, and you’ve got lots of space to hide at the back at the back you can get away with putting plants in that perhaps aren’t on song – but here every plant had to be performing, so that was quite a challenge for us, and that’s really what we were focusing on.
PB: Do you have a favourite garden here?
CB: Favourite garden? I genuinely haven’t looked around!
PB: I heard that you had some extra work to do because of a fox creating a nest and flattening some of your plants. Was it a lot of work to fix?
CB: Yes, it was a bit frustrating, you know – it’s great to have wildlife in the garden: small wildlife is preferential to be honest, bigger wildlife is a bit more problematic! It’s just one of those things, it shows that gardens are dynamic, they have to be adaptable, have to change what’s going on. And that’s what gardeners are, we are very adaptable, and very optimistic, if things don’t work out, we change tack and try something else.
CB: Have you ever taken any aspects of your previously designed gardens at Chelsea back to your home garden?
CB: I get the dregs, mostly. I get the plants that weren’t quite good enough to make it! I mean, a lot of the gardens and the style of planting is at home anyway, so in a way it’s the reverse – I use my garden as an experiment, so I might see a new plant, play with a combination, see how it performs and see how resilient it is, because in a nursery a plant may look fantastic in a pot, but in the ground, will it perform? Some plants won’t perform in pots, but they will perform in the garden. So Chaerophyllum, for instance, at the opposite end of the garden, in the woodland, that wonderful pink umbel doesn’t perform well in a pot, but stick it in the ground and it suddenly sits up – you get a great mound of foliage and wonderful tall umbels of flowers. So it is one of those things that you have to experiment and analyse everything that’s going on in the real world, to then know whether it’s going to work at Chelsea. So in a way it’s the other way around – it’s not taking Chelsea home, it’s bringing home to Chelsea.
PB: Have you used any new tools to create The Morgan Stanley Garden?
CB: There’s a pair of secateurs buried underneath that pine tree there, they’re mine, and they’re new – the guys were so enthusiastic planting the tree, I was on the opposite side of the rootball and they were shovelling in, and I was like “Where’s my secateurs?”
PB: If you don’t find them I’ve got at least three sets in my compost heap. I can let you have one.
CB: I know, that’s where they always end up – if they’re not on the shelf.
Other articles that may interest you………..
To see photographs and find out about the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC, which Chris Beardshaw designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To see photographs of The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which Chris Beardshaw designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.
To see photographs of The Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, which Chris Beardshaw designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, please click here.
To read about the new rose introductions for 2017 and 2018, which were launched by David Austin at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, please click here.
To read my interview with Garden Designer Charlotte Harris, please click here.