Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The British Heart Foundation Garden Chelsea 2011

After its debut at the RHS's London Plant and Design Show this week, I thought it time to dust down the artist's impression of our garden (more details of the brilliant Richard Lee's work can be found hereand pin it up on my blog for the world to see. And so here it is. Be gentle with me, this is nerve racking.

The garden has been inspired by many things, but has been designed to embrace and reflect the energetic work of the fabulous British Heart Foundation in their 50th year. I hope the garden catches peoples attention and does as much as it can to raise the profile of their life-changing anniversary campaign 'Mending Broken Hearts'

In the BHF's own words "At the moment, there's no cure for a broken heart. Once your heart muscle is damaged by a heart attack, it can never fully recover. But there is hope. We need to spend £50 million to fund groundbreaking research that could begin to literally 'mend broken hearts' in as little as ten years time." You'll find more information on the wonderful appeal, and ways you can support it here.

The garden, particularly its arches have been inspired by the bold, colourful work of a piece created for the Mending Broken Hearts campaign by one of its patrons, legendary artist Sir Peter Blake, an image of the structure of heart muscle created by BHF researcher Dr Patrick Hales, and last but not least the power and strength of the human heart itself. These bold arching structures will imitate the movement of veins and arteries, and though I originally envisioned these arches in powder coated steel, an email this week has set me off course. I have a meeting with a supplier tomorrow which may result in an even more eye-catching alternative - of course, you'll be the first to know.

Sir Peter Blake's Image         Dr Patrick Hale's Image

Translucent, internally lit red cell stepping stones float through the garden at ground level, traversing a pond (without water there would be no life), under the vibrant red arches which provide upward thrust to the space and frame views before ultimately leading to a 'floating' terrace at the heart of the space. Here the strands of the garden’s arches become freeform overhead, creating a sheltering structure, a break in the overhead frame providing a space to look back over the garden to contemplate, and assess one’s journey through the garden and so through life.

The garden, which is sponsored by Brewin Dolphin,  will encompass the healing properties of plants   and includes plants used in cardiology treatment, several natives, some marginals, and even some weeds, all creating a jostling foliage jamboree, with very little bloom. Almost entirely green, the textural planting is pushed into the boundaries with a vertical planted green wall system, leading the eye up to the heart shaped leaves of the mature Limes surrounding the 10m x 10m space above. All of this, I hope, will result in the red elements appearing even more rich, positive and bold as they career up, out, over and  through the plentiful, green planting. 

Essentially I hope to create a garden that celebrates life in all its forms...

In the briefest of detail, that's the overview. There's still so much to tell, several bridges to cross, and plenty of decisions to be made, but more on that later... for now, thanks for reading. Hope you like it....

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Chelsea Plants

As far as plants are concerned, the Chelsea Flower Show is a little chicken and egg - by the time you have hurdled the commissioning rounds, it is mid November, and just as you're revving up to place plant orders, every plant countrywide has collapsed below ground for a well earned rest.

But, if you want the plants you've specified in tip-top condition, you need to place orders with growers before Christmas, detailing preferred pot sizes, height and girth of the final plants, and specifying the ridiculous quantities you'd like to order,  to ensure you have enough plants in peak condition, before another Chelsea hungry designer beats you to it.

Without the luxury of choosing plants earlier in the year before you know whether you're in or out,  choosing plants is a little like stabbing in the dark - the scheme may be planted in your head, but you don't have the luxury of visiting nurseries in the hope of making new finds, those ethereal lovelies previously unknown to your acquaintance. Leafing through old notebooks, photographs and nursery catalogues becomes a chaotic addiction in the quest for the must have plant which will bedazzle and beguile your clients (the British Heart Foundation, and Brewin Dolphin), the general public, and the judges. 

And choosing plants out of season, its sensible to have some back up plants, and then back up plants for your back up plants. Keeping all within budget is a logistical nightmare, as not only do you have to ensure you'll have enough plants at full tilt for that certain one week at the end of May, all of these plants have to be decided upon and decided within a budget. 

However, with their sudden elevation to super model status, those plants lucky enough to be selected suddenly have to be housed in the nursery equivalent of a serviced five star apartment on Mayfair. And believe you me, this kind of horticultural haute couture comes at a (perfectly justified) price. Plants will be pampered, fed, watered, primed, primped, given sun or shade, and even read a bedtime story if the grower feels it may just be beneficial to the prima donna demands of the plant. It's a tough job, and those that take on the challenge are real heroes, whose hours of devotion are still not truly reflected in the costs charged to the Chelsea designer.

However, after much wrangling with plant varieties, costs and seasonality, I think I'm almost there - trees have been tagged, perennials, grasses and ferns have been ordered, and whilst the marginals for our pond are still not quite finalised, we are well on our way. And I think there's a tiny sprinkling of cash available for some last minute buys.

And though you'd think this would bring relief, in reality the end of one concern makes room for another. Now sleepless nights and empty moments are spent worrying about whether I've ordered enough of a particular variety, if I should have chosen another Hosta, or whether my Angelica will be tall enough. It seems that the time spent between selection and delivering the garden on show week, is mostly spent biting one's nails; by the time Chelsea arrives, mine will be down to the quick.

As for the hard landscaping - well, that's still slightly in flux, but we'll get there.... meanwhile, has anyone got any finger nails they can lend to me?!