I adored the dreamy quintessential country cottage garden that Mark Gregory designed and built for the Yorkshire Tourist Board, at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show. I was utterly charmed both by Mark’s design and the quality of the construction of this idyllic garden.
I wasn’t the only one to fall in love with Mark’s 2018 Chelsea garden: the RHS judges presented the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden with a Gold Medal and the Best Construction Award; while the public voted the Yorkshire Garden as the winner of the People’s Choice Award. I loved this garden! I’d have happily moved into the bothy and claimed this idyllic plot for my own. Consequently, I have been eagerly anticipating my visit to Chelsea, to see the latest garden that Mark has designed and built for Welcome to Yorkshire, at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
It’s hard to think of a way that Mark could improve upon last year’s success, but Mark Gregory is a determined, passionate, and ambitious man. Not content with the praise he received at last year’s show, where Mark felt that there was almost something wanting, as his design had fallen so perfectly into place. Last year, everything worked precisely as Mark planned, during every single stage of the construction process. Although Mark loved last year’s Yorkshire Garden and he enjoyed the process of designing and building the garden, he felt as if he’d in effect had it too easy. Consequently, Mark has been keen to up the stakes for his 2019 garden, to see if he could draw a similar reaction from the public, and from his peers, with a much more complex garden design, one that stretches the possibilities of what’s achievable at Chelsea.
Rather than taking the easy option, by bringing a piece of the Yorkshire moors or the dales to Chelsea, Mark decided instead to take on the challenge of building a section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show!
Mark Gregory loves to find innovate ways to produce a theatrical landscape that will strike a chord with visitors. He pays close attention to the underlying quality of the construction methods and the techniques used to create the bones of his show gardens, but Mark completes his designs by adding the finer details of the landscape to create atmosphere, to deliver an authentic space that really moves people and appeals to their senses, desires, and memories. Mark really wants the public to love and understand this garden, he hopes they’ll feel a connection with Yorkshire and with the garden itself.
One of the ways that Mark has enabled the public to feel part of the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, is by placing a whacking great, 8m tall, 5-ton Acer campestre at the garden’s boundary, to ensure that the public can shelter beneath, and even touch the tree. Allowing visitors to make that vital contact and connection, which is often missing thanks to the distance and separation of Chelsea gardens and the public.
The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden also features a number of large pollarded willows that Mark has grown out for a more relaxed look, in keeping with the garden. This garden has a really authentic countryside feel, thanks to these trees, and the other ferns and wildflowers that Mark has used in the garden.
Mark creates a story with each of the gardens he designs. With the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, Mark’s narrative centres around the life of the Lock Keeper he’s imagined, who lives in the stone cottage, next to the lock. Mark’s Lock Keeper looks after 7 locks. He’s a keen gardener, growing cottage garden style plants around his home, and tending a vegetable garden, that he’s very proud of. The other side of the garden is the side that the public access and walks through. A hoggin towpath marks a track that dog walkers and families out for a weekend walk would take, as they explore these wildlife corridors, in West Yorkshire.
The Lock Keeper has planted an experimental perennial meadow on this public side of the garden, growing wild lupins and Camassia, in amongst Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley), buttercups, ragged robin, grasses, and wild flowers. Mark has used his personal observations of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to help to inform and complete his Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. Osmunda regalis grows wild along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, so Mark has included this fern, in the garden.
Mark Gregory has an impressive record – this is Mark’s 31st year at Chelsea. This year Mark has built two gardens: the Yorkshire Garden and the Dubai Majlis Garden. These are the 98th and 99th gardens that Mark has built at Chelsea.
Last year, Mark famously brought cow pats, as a detail to complete his Yorkshire country cottage garden. This year, Mark obtained permission from the Royal Horticultural Society to use the maximum area for the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden by stretching this garden into the 2m (6.5ft) strip of grass that surrounds each of the gardens.
Mark lives in Surrey, but grew up in Yorkshire and is a proud Yorkshire man. Mark wanted to do something extraordinary for Yorkshire at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show; he wanted to impress the public and Mark has succeeded, he’s done it! Mark is prepared and driven. He has absolutely given this garden all his heart and soul, using every trick and every technique he has learnt over the past 31 years that Mark’s been building gardens at Chelsea, to create a garden that’s technically demanding, atmospheric, and dramatic.
If you’d like to vote for your favourite Show Garden in the People’s Choice Awards, please click here to visit the BBC website and cast your vote.
To see the quintessential country cottage garden that Mark Gregory designed and built for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………..
To see an overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.
To see an overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To see the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019, please click here.