News & Events

Sometimes I find it difficult to imagine what it will be like at the end of May as the summer approaches and we are building a garden in the middle of London for millions to view for one week.

It certainly feels distant on a wet and cold January day with snow and ice forecast for the next week.  I keep looking at the colour visuals of our Chelsea garden and trying to imagine more of the detail to ensure that no aspect is missed in the preparations.

There is still work to do on the historical and contemporary parts though the timeless elements are beginning to fall into place.  I am looking forward to seeing the thatched roof on the summerhouse and tend to gaze at every thatched roof as I drive through areas of Suffolk and Dorset these days.

Thatch has always been popular for its aesthetic as well as practical qualities and now there is renewed interest as an environmentally friendly material from a renewable source. Indeed the most likely materials to be included up on the ‘timeless’ list are those derived from natural sources with the more manipulated materials tending to come and go with changing fashions. Hence the timeless elements on our garden include English sandstone paving and coping and red brick walls. Timber is also locally sourced as I have chosen English Oak for the summerhouse frame and windows.

Looking back through gardening books and plant catalogues of 100 years ago I should not have been surprised, as I was, to see how many plants that are favourites today were regularly used a century ago.  Included in this list are Roses – Mme Alfred Carriere, Rosa Mundi, and The Garland plus many other shrub roses, Osmanthus illicifolius, Myrtus communis, Calamintha nepeta, lots of the hardy Geraniums including cultivars of Geranium sanguineum of which I use a great deal. All these and many more are planned to be included in the garden within the ‘timeless’ planting.

Some of the once popular evergreens are less used now such as Aucuba japonica Variegata otherwise known as ‘the spotted laurel’ This plant still has a place in today’s planting as it will thrive in fairly dry and very shady conditions. More favoured for these situations nowadays are holly, laurel and yew and for smaller scale planting, Pachysandra and Sarcococca. All these were used 100 years ago but it is simply a case of using them in different combinations and on a smaller a scale to suit the changed lifestyle of today’s gardeners.

We no longer have huge teams of gardeners to tend the acres gardened before the first world war and technology plays a large part in the way we maintain our gardens now but the soil and the plants remain the same as ever even if the climate is uncertain.

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Tags: The Chelsea Flower Show 2013, Windows Through Time garden, Chelsea Flower Show plants, news, Centenary Year.