The Garden Guide

Garden designs at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2005

Chelsea, as the world's largest and most famous flower show, is a good place to review trends in garden design. See reviews of 2004 Chelsea Show Gardens and see pre-Show comments.

Review of Show Garden Designs at Chelsea 2005 Flower Show, by Tom Turner on 22.5.2005

The Ecover Chelsea Pensioners' Garden, by the Julian Dowle Partnership looks backward with proud nostalgia.


The Hanover Quay Garden, by Dairmut Gavin looks faltering forward: the shapes are arrestingly new - but with echos of Telly-Tubby land, Hobbit-Land, wombs and pagan Earth Mothers. The design is significantly more successful than Dairmut's 2004 Chelsea Design.


The Laurent-Perrier Garden, by Tom Stuart-Smith is well-planted and, as it proclaims, has an Italianate theme borrowed from Trentham. It should help us to consider the policy of 'restoring' Trentham or adopting a policy of Creative Conservation. The plan for Trentham is to use most of the original plan shapes but to modernise the planting, as shown in this Chelsea garden].


The Moat & Castle Eco Garden, by Ellen Mary Fenton (above, with Charlie Dymock) and Neil Malachy Black, is altogether admirable. It has the first swimming pond at a Chelsea Show, makes innovative use of the ancient art of dry-stone walling and takes 'a simple ecological cut and fill' approach to the landform design.


The Peace Garden, sponsored by the Imperial War Museum and designed by Terrance Conran, has an attractive waterfall but suffers from a clumsey spatial design. One wonders if the firm, like its founder, is more a designer of objects than a designer of space.


The Merrill Lynch Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon, is a disappointing comparison with the Merrill Lynch Garden by Dan Pearson which occupied the same plot in 2004. The workplace building has an attractive echo of the Mies Barcelona Pavilion but the concrete block 'tank trap' on the far side of the pond is a design muddle.

In the Grove, by Christopher Bradley Hole is attractive for its layering - a cloud of bamboos above a cubist parterre - but disappoints in other respects. The design looks spatially cluttered and a dash over-cooked. The problem, perhaps, it that it rests on an inadequate theoretical understanding of sacred gardens (I made a similar criticism of his 2004 design).


The Trailfinders Recycled Garden, by Chris Beardshaw Ltd, has brilliant wall panels and rather good switch-back mounding marred by a dreary water feature.


Jane Hudson and Erik De Maejer have, like last year, done a spiral design for Cancer Research - very well detailed and very well planted. There is something biological about spirals, but their connection with Cancer Research (who sponsored the design) is uncertain.


The Room105 Chic Garden (above left), designed by Zebra Grass (formerly Room105 Design Partnership), won a gold medal. The Wildlife Trusts Lush Garden (above right) was sponsored by Lush Cosmetics and won a silver medal.
When it comes to details, the most appealing features of Chelsea 2005 Garden Designs are the use reflective materials and the increassing prevelance of vegetated roofs.

The Chelsea Pensioners Garden deserved the prize for Best in Show. It has the highest design quality, though its character is utterly retro. One cannot imagine an architectural design competition being won by a design for a thatched cottage, probably because, for architectural  competitions, they choose judges known to have modern tastes. If, as at Chelsea, judges represented both the professional and non-professional communities then more Chelsea Pensioner type decisions awards might be made for buildings. There are more modern designs at Chelsea than a decade ago. One would think Sir Terrance Conran a leader in this field, but his Peace Garden is falteringly sentimental and quite unlike the Habitat furniture which made him famous. Had I been told he was responsible for one of the Chelsea show gardens, and asked to guess which, my first suggestion would have been  In the Grove, by Christopher Bradley Hole and my second guess the Merrill Lynch Garden by Andy Sturgeon. They are ‘classic modern’ in a 1950s sense. Thinking about ‘modern’ in 2005 sense was left to others. Dairmut Gavin’s Hanover Quay Garden, though excessively Telly Tubby, suggests a 2005-modern approach with its pod-like earth-sheltered structures dominated by planting. The Wildlife Trusts garden looks beyond 2005 with its vegetated roof and the Moat & Castle Eco Garden, by Ellen Mary Fenton and Neil Malachy Black makes a great gesture to the future of garden swimming with the first ever biologically balanced swimming pond at Chelsea. The team which made the Spiral Garden were disappointed to have the only show garden without a prize. It was inspired by ‘one of nature’s most distinct shapes’ but spirals have a structural role in the natural world, as in the ammonite. In the design of this garden it was merely a pattern.


Pre-show comments on Chelsea Flower Show 2005 Garden Designs

The dates for the Chelsea Flower Show 2005 are Tuesday 24th May to Saturday 28th May 2005. The show garden designs have been selected and announced (see list below). The information about them on the RHS website prompts the following comments:

  1. surprisingly few are the work of professionally qualified garden designers or landscape architects
  2. surprisingly little use is made of computer aided design (CAD)
  3. many of the designs are inspired by sentimental themes
  4. others are described as 'contemporary' - a term which now suggests a 1950s Abstract Style approach
  5. we can all visit the 2005 Chelsea Show with optimism: designers are much better at design than at describing or illustrating their design ideas!
  • 4Head: The 4head Garden (RGB9) Garden designer: Marney Hall
  • Bradstone: The Bradstone Midsummer Garden (RGB8) Garden designer: Alan Sargent
  • Cancer Research UK: Cancer Research UK Garden (MA24) Garden designer: Jane Hudson & Erik De Maeijer
  • Carol Smith & Martin Clark Associates: The Spiral Garden (WA10) Garden designer: Carol Smith
  • Diarmuid Gavin (MA7) Garden designer: Diarmuid Gavin
  • Ellen Landscapes: Moat and Castle Eco-Garden (NR40)Designer: Elma Fenton
  • Fetzer Vineyards: Fetzer Wine Garden (MA17) Garden designer: Kate Frey
  • Fleming’s Nurseries: Float (NR36) Garden designer: Jack Merlo
  • Giles Landscapes: Wildlife Trusts Lush Garden (RGB6) Garden designer: Stephen Hall
  • Imperial War Museum: Commemorative Peace Garden (MA6) Garden designer: Sir Terence Conran
  • Landlab Ltd: The Boreal Forest Garden (NR38) Garden designer: John Kennedy
  • Laurent Perrier: The Laurent Perrier Garden - Trentham Awakes (MA4) Garden designer: Tom Stuart-Smith
  • Merrill Lynch: Merrill Lynch Garden (MA1) Garden designer: Andy Sturgeon
  • RSPB/SITA Environmental Trust: The Real Rubbish Garden (RS3) Garden designer: Claire Whitehouse
  • Savill’s: The Savill’s Garden (NR43) Garden designer: Clare Agnew
  • Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan: In the Grove (MA2) Garden designer: Christopher Bradley-Hole
  • The Garden Planner: A Fisherman’s Garden (WA4) Garden designer: Geoffrey Whiten
  • The Royal Hospital, Chelsea: The Ecover Chelsea Pensioners' Garden (MA5) Garden designer: Julian Dowle
  • WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Plan): The possibilities are endless (MA8) Garden designer: Chris Beardshaw

The best designs in the 2005 Chelsea Show will be reviewed below, by Tom Turner, and should appear here before the 2005 Chelsea Show opens.