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With Christmas approaching and temperatures all over the place we have concentrated on settling the plants into their winter quarters. The glasshouse is for the more tender items such as myrtle and French lavender and polytunnels for Cistus and other evergreens. However, it is vital that good ventilation is maintained so we are busy opening the doors and vents at every opportunity.

Potting and pruning of the shrub roses is almost complete and the climbers will be finished by Christmas. The roses are mainly purples and mauves ranging from classic varieties to some recent introductions, in keeping with the garden theme.

Recently I have been focusing on the individual themes and working on what I consider the main challenge of the design, which is combining all the elements to create a unified garden.

How did I come to set myself this challenge in the first place?

Well, since my first visit in 1976 I have noticed reoccurring elements in RHS Chelsea Show gardens and looking at photographs for some of the other 50 or so years these elements were present during the earlier shows too. Rocks, ruins, pools, summerhouses and sculptures appear year after year. So, by putting those in some sort of historical context seemed a way of acknowledging the 100 years of Chelsea. The only way that I could see this being possible and still have a garden that looks good – rather than a hotchpotch – is to tell a story…

Let’s imagine the ruined sandstone wall has been built from rock dug close by, hence the sand stone outcrop and pool of water filling the hole.  Planting behind the wall will include popular evergreen plants such as laurel and holly and represent the ‘old garden’.

At least two thirds of the garden is representing a planting style, which has endured over the past century, so I shall be using the usual framework of trees, shrubs and roses united with perennials to give the classic look. The sturdy thatched summerhouse is the hub and of course somewhere pleasant to sit and enjoy the garden. Thatched, because I have never used one at Chelsea before and it will be fascinating to see it being thatched on site. Planting around the summerhouse will be a different experience from my usual tiled roof structures. It is also in keeping with the ‘classic’ theme and very ecologically friendly.

Complimenting the theme ‘Windows through Time’ I needed a contemporary window – and I also wanted a sculpture – so combining it as a window sculpture fulfilled both of these requirements. I have seen the lovely rusted finish of Corten steel used at Chelsea and other shows in recent years for troughs, arches and sculptures. Placing it correctly in the garden is going to be crucial and planting around it will be interesting.

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