The Artisan gardens at RHS Chelsea are just as fabulous as the larger show gardens and often more relevant to the amateur gardener.
For the visitors the smaller gardens at RHS Chelsea are the powerhouse of ideas and innovation, showing ways to be creative in a modest space. This year the Artisan Gardens are a true delight. Here are five favourites.
The Poetry Lover’s Garden
Designer Fiona Cadwallader
In a leafy glade at the boundary of the showground, this dreamy Artisan garden is a haven from the hustle and bustle of not just the flower show but of London itself. Book lovers that covet a place to read could take plenty of ideas from this design, it draws you magnetically to the central seat and the soft sound of water cascading down a smooth, but tall contemporary water feature just adds to the effect. It’s a simple design delineated with stone walled terraces and a stonewall boundary. Interplanted with a rich, cool mix of soft herbaceous plants adds to the effect, combining the hard landscaping with the planting. Inspired by a romantic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge – This Lime Tree Bower my Prison, the garden also features rooftop pruned lime trees. Look out for the plants growing between the stones of the wall.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Centenary Garden
Designer David Domoney
This garden marks the CWGC’s 100th anniversary. It has a really soft, serene atmosphere created by the planting and the weather and water worn stone and statuary used in the design. The entrance to this garden is inspired by the bronze wreath at the largest CWGC cemetery – Tyne Cot in Belgium.
The Portland stone paving represents the headstones at some of the 1.7 million war graves the CWGC continues to care for, the sculptures are vintage pieces designed by Sir Charles Wheeler of Royal NAVAL servicemen for the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and stand guard on each side of the garden. It’s a moving creation, with a contemplative feel and country garden style planting. A canopy of multi-stemmed trees creates a space to reflect and remember and the fallen are represented by globe headed flowers, such as Alliums and cirsium nestling within the planting.
The Seedlip Garden
Designer Dr Catherine MacDonald
The restricted colour palette of this garden really adds volumes to its effect and design. It’s a mix of coppery tones and orange hues that enhance the use of copper throughout the design. It’s a marriage of apothecary garden and distillation lab with a time machine take that combines modern and vintage with flair. The plants, each chosen for their use in herbal concoctions or for their colour and textural impact in the planting, are an eclectic mix of interesting botanicals. Decorated with the apparatus of distillation, the garden was inspired by the story of Seedlip, its 17th Century apothecary origins and modern-day pioneering approach to distillation. A central abstract copper sculpture depicts the 350-year-old journey from book to bottle that inspired Seedlip’s founder to develop the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits in his kitchen in the woods. Copper pipework and channels carry water through the garden, in tribute to their importance in the process of distillation.
Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War
Designer Kazuyuki Ishihara
The attention to detail in this garden is breathtaking. Every stone is placed with meaning, every cushion of moss is neat and tidy and every plant is in the right place. Inspired by the Kyoto residence of Japanese emperors, a garden that could never be attacked and so was without moat and wall to protect it, this fresh accessible garden has been designed to express the communal spirit that has allowed the imperial family to continue for two millennia.
Flowing water moves over carefully placed rocks and feeds directly into a restful, crystal clear pool, lined with paddlestones. The rocks are encrusted with moss and interplanted with knarled bonsai conifers that add a sculptural elegance to the scene. Brightly coloured Japanese acers, wearing a cloak of fresh leaves create drama between the other Japanese natives that all envelop the garden centrepiece; the contemporary pavilion with a glass floor and dressed for a tea ceremony.
The World Horse Welfare Garden
Designer Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith
Centrepiece to this garden is a sculpture of a horse made from horseshoes. Its skeletal form is a very evocative sight in the dark overgrown adjacent garden. It’s inspired by the work of the charity World Horse Welfare and tells the story of Clippy the horse rescued by the charity and highlights the plight of abandoned and neglected horses around the world.
The simple design features a derelict stable in a dark corner of the garden. Now rescued and nursed back to health by the charity, Clippy now lives in a bright, open meadow where he can continue to recover and will hopefully be rehomed. The meadow contains pretty wildflowers and native plants including cow parsley, ragged robin, nettles and docks.