Monday, 17 January 2011

The British Heart Foundation Garden Chelsea 2011

On a Friday afternoon in the middle of November, the long awaited email from Alex Denman (Chelsea Show Manager) regarding our submission for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011 finally arrived with ominous aplomb.

Having initially met with the wonderful Mike Napton of the British Heart Foundation in August, this email would be the end, or the beginning of several weeks of meetings, sleepless nights, nibbling of pencils and general head scratching in designing a show garden meant for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011.

Now, for those who have never been through the proceedings, let me assure you that the show garden application process is by no means a walk in the park. After a nerve racking lunch with Mike of the British Heart Foundation, the masterful Sir Peter Blake (a world famous iconic artist who is a patron of the British Heart Foundation), and members of their teams, my concept was drawn up then nervously delivered to be agreed by Sir Peter, the British Heart Foundation, and the financial sponsor Brewin Dolphin.  Gulp.

Thankfully they loved the sinuous curves of the bold design, with its vibrant colours and naturalistic planting. Phew.

So a more detailed plan was drawn up with a brief, a plant list and various other documents, and all were emailed (and posted!) for the deliberation and scrutiny of the faceless Chelsea Show Garden Panel, all to be decided in competition with the world's leading garden designers. More gulping.

After the first round, no yay or nay was received, simply a polite request for several more construction drawings alongside probing questions, and requests to simplify certain aspects of the design. Several sleepless nights later, I was again relived to have met the tight re-submission deadline, and the waiting game began once more.

And finally, after being asked if "I knew yet?" by so many people after so many weeks,  it all came down to this;  a pulsing email on a computer screen daring me to open the attached letter from the Show garden panel to let me know whether we were in, or out.

It took me a palm sweating, sickening, petrifying half an hour spent pacing around the office before I plucked up the courage to press the open attachment key on Alex's extremely polite mail.

And the answer was.........yes.

To say I was floored would be an understatement, and to describe my emotions is impossible. Is it enough to say that my screams of delight mixed with floods of tears and general quivering, make me relieved that I was alone in the office? (Though James Alexander-Sinclair swears he could hear me in Northamptonshire).

So at the start of 2011 I find myself in full swing with our Chelsea preparations. The process has so far been comparable to riding some kind of professional see-saw; in turns I'm thrown up in the air or down to the ground without warning, to be filled with joy, or fear at any time of the day or night.

And yet, I am loving every moment, and am thrilled to be working with, and for the benefit, of such an amazing, important charity. I only hope I can do them credit....


  1. Marvellous! Of course, there may be many times over the next five months when you wish the answer had been 'no'.

    Can't wait to see the completed masterpiece (are you going to post up the plans?)


  2. It's all so great! Can't wait to see you up there with the big boys where you belong missus. So glad you're blogging about it too. Hope you find time to fit some more posts in*

    *bet we dont hear from you again until June

  3. Congrats Ann-Marie. Looking forward to reading your updates on the build-up and seeing the actual garden in May. Good luck!

  4. I can't begin to imagine the impossibly huge rushes of adrenaline that you must have experienced since the project was first mooted & many more to come; a huge roller coaster AND meeting Peter Blake. WOW!