At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show every single show garden, in every category has the opportunity to win a Gold Medal. There are no limitations on the number of Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver, or Bronze medals that the judges can award, nor is there a requirement for any medal to be awarded – if none of the gardens are of Gold Medal standard, then no Gold Medals will be presented. Each garden is judged on its own merit, with particular considerations paid to the garden’s design, the quality of the work carried and out and the overall finish and impression of the garden. The brief that the designer submitted to the RHS where they detailed what they intended to build when they applied for the show is naturally of paramount importance to the judging process; the judges study the brief and note whether the garden that has been delivered at the show reflects the promise of that design. Of course, it goes without saying that the quality, health, and condition of the plants the designer has used also affects the judges’ score. The judges will consider whether the choice of plants are appropriate for the space – the plants should have every opportunity to flourish long term, if they had been planted into that particular garden as a permanent feature.
Every designer craves a Gold Medal and they each have the opportunity to realise this dream, but there can only be one recipient of the ‘Best in Show’ award – this is given to the designer who accumulates the highest score from the RHS judges. This year, the RHS show judges presented the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC with a Gold Medal, complete with the cherry on the cake, the prestigious title of Best in Show, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018! Chris Beardshaw and his team were thrilled to have been recognised for the quality of Chris’s design, the plants used, and finish of the team’s installation work. This year, Chris Beardshaw is celebrating twenty years of exhibiting show gardens, so this award comes at the perfect time to add some sparkle to mark his celebratory year!
Morgan Stanley and Chris Beardshaw‘s partnership continues, with this year’s Morgan Stanley Garden designed to highlight the financial institute’s partnership with the NSPCC – a charity set up to actively work to end child abuse in the UK and the Channel Islands. With the children’s charity at the forefront of the design, Chris hopes that the garden will raise awareness of Morgan Stanley’s support of the NSPCC and raise the profile of this children’s charity. In his design of the NSPCC garden, Chris evokes a feeling of safety and security, to reflect the sanctuary that the NSPCC provides for the children in its care, and as such this show garden has been created as a metaphor, to demonstrate the transformation of a child’s life once they are supported by the NSPCC.
Within the context of the hustle and bustle of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – this show is filled with so much passion and opportunity, in amongst this carnival atmosphere, Chris Beardshaw has created a really peaceful, calming, and reassuring space. Chris has achieved this sense of tranquility through his use of plants, in his use of the colour palette, and in the textures he has selected in both the plant and construction materials he’s chosen. Chris has used bold-textured plants alongside finer textured plants, Chris Beardshaw is a master of woodland planting, he allows some of the plants to scavenge underneath, like Asarum europaeum, using the plants with a very particular function to solve a challenge – and the challenge is to create a calm environment within the chaos that is the show.
Chris Beardshaw puts an astounding amount of work into his garden designs; you may have assumed that Chris ordered, or was given, the pavilion that’s a feature of this year’s Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC – but no, Chris designed this building himself. Chris tells me that he wanted a building that was permeable, light, airy, and versatile – all the louvered screens move – something Chris seems particularly proud of. You can slide the doors along, they can be fully open, fully closed, and seemingly everything in between, to create different amounts of privacy within. The louvers allow the breeze to filter into the room, as the doors filter the light inside, to create a space that is calm, tranquil, easily changed, but never overwhelming. Chris was keen for this show garden to be a peaceful, comfortable, and comforting space, he hopes that the pavilion represents a feeling of inner peace and calm.
This year, Chris has again grown some of the plants for the NSPCC garden, with Hare Spring Cottage Plants supplying the Camassias, Deepdale Trees (a wholesale tree nursery – they only supply plants to the trade) providing the trees, and Hortus Loci growing the other plants for this award winning show garden.
Chris wants the visitor, or observer, of the NSPCC garden to get a real sense of the transition in a child’s life once they have been supported by the NSPCC. The view from the front of the garden provides a very different look to the view the visitor experiences as they come through the garden. Chris tells me he wanted there to be a very obvious move from the front of the garden, where there’s only the big Rhododendron catching your attention, the other plants are quite minimal or downward-facing in their growth. Plants like the Enkianthus campanulatus, a hardy shrub that favours slightly acid soils, for instance are very modest, very downward-facing in their habit, as you walk through the garden, Chris wanted it to become much more lush and more positive. In this area of the garden the flowers are not only more floriferous, but they’re bigger, bolder, and more upright, Plants like the Camassia leichtlinii ‘Pale Pink’ for instance, which was chosen to represent a child gaining their confidence, is planted further into the garden.
The materials that Chris has used in the NSPCC garden were inspired by some of the materials and strategies that the NSPCC use in their work helping children. Chris tells me that one of the things that the NSPCC use when counselling children is repetition – the same event, or the same feature over again until it becomes familiar and non threatening. So, to reflect this, the tiles Chris has used in the NSPCC garden are all the same, they have the same orientation, they are all the same size, and it’s the same for the paving slabs too. Chris has also used repetition with his chosen plants – so you can see he has placed Styrax japonicus at the front of the garden and again there’s a Styrax japonicus at the side of the garden, and so on. He tells me that this was an integral part of his design to demonstrate the reassurance that you’ve seen something before and can understand that its safe and non threatening.
Chris chose to use cedar wood to create the pavilion for the NSPCC garden, as the charity use this material through their work with children. Cedar is a very tactile material and it also has a familiar, calming, fragrance, which can be used to create positive associations and memories. There’s a kinetic sand sculpture in the middle of the pavilion, which was created by Bruce Shapiro from Sisyphus Industries, this kinetic artwork has a ball-bearing inside, it’s capable of producing an infinite number of different patterns, apparently this reflects the NSPCC’s work using sand to let the children express themselves and their emotions. Chris turned this kinetic sand sculpture on, on Thursday and it has been constantly running ever since, producing elaborate and expressive patterns!
All the pieces of sculpture, all of the materials that Chris has chosen are all telling a story that relates to the NSPCC in some way. They all have something to do with the overall narrative; the leaf sculpture on the back wall is all about the idea of something unfurling and building – the building of gold as it spins, which is also echoed in the circular nature of the table inside the pavilion. Verdigris porcelain has been used around the pond, nothing is off-the-shelf in this garden – everything is bespoke.
This year’s Morgan Stanley garden is slightly different in a way, because the NSPCC don’t have a permanent site to take the garden to, so unlike the Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital, or the Healthy Cities Garden, where Chris was specifically designing a garden for a designated space, this garden will sit at Chelsea until Sunday, then at the end of Chelsea week the garden will be dismantled and the plants will be sold to raise funds for the NSPCC. This garden will live on in gardeners’ gardens, rather than at the NSPCC.
Buy Gold Medal winning plants and support the NSPCC!
If you’d like to purchase plants from Chris Beardshaw’s Gold Medal winning, Best in Show garden there are two events that you can attend, both plant sales will be held on Monday 28th May 2018 and both have a £3 entry fee – the charity kindly request that visitors make all payments using cash or cheques.
- The first plant sale will be held in London, at Totteridge Village Hall, Badger’s Croft, London, N20 8AH from 12.30pm until 3pm.
- While the second event opens from 2pm until 6pm, at Arnold Yoke, Back Street, Leeds, Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1TF.
Other articles that may interest you…………..
If you cannot attend these two plant sales, you may be interested to see my specialist plant fairs, festivals, sales and plant swaps calendar.
To read my interview with Mark Gregory and take a tour of the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, which won a Gold Medal and the People’s Choice Award, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 and find out more about the Morgan Stanley Garden, please click here.
To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, and find out about the Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital, please click here.
To read my interview with Chris Beardshaw at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, and find out about the Healthy Cities Garden, please click here.
To take a tour of the Silent Pool Gin Garden, designed by David Neale for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To read detailed descriptions of the new rose introductions that were launched by David Austin Roses at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.