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RHS Chelsea Flower Show
28 APRIL 2015
Marcus Barnett is an award winning landscape and garden designer, winning, amongst other things, gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2005 and also in 2006, when he designed a garden for Savills. This year he is designing the show garden at Chelsea for The Telegraph. Over the years of working with Marcus he has been a valued adviser to many of our clients and is always happy to discuss projects without any obligation. To see more of Marcus’ work you may wish to visit his website, www.marcusbarnett.com.
This year I have the great privilege to have been chosen to design, build and plant another show garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. As a result of this, the last few months have led to greater working pressure as the detailed preparation leading up to Chelsea builds.
This year we have been chosen by The Telegraph to work with them for the first time. In some senses this adds greater pressure given The Telegraph’s incredible past record at being awarded Best in Show (the last time being in 2013). However, my team and I are there to do our very very best and I am confident we will deliver a striking and well resolved garden, but how awards are delivered is for the judges to decide and I am trying not to think about that at the moment.
Previous experience of Chelsea is very helpful. Having done Chelsea before, one realises how short the timescale is and how there is little margin for error. One has to watch out for things such as what to do when plants you are depending on fail, and also be aware that it will be a very involved month of preparation and delivery.
This year’s garden references the De Stijl Movement. I admire the movement for its clear principals and its boldness. The movement arose from the darkest days of the first world war, in stark contrast to the dreary climate that gripped Europe. To arrive at such modern, striking and colourful images and paintings was hugely brave. I like that. Artists like Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg created a process of dramatic simplification and abstraction. They passed organic forms through the prism of De Stijl, using only primary colours and this culminated in paintings like Rhythm of Russian Dance or Tableau 1 by Piet Mondrian. It is not for everyone and may instil a ‘marmite’ judgement of this year’s Chelsea garden: you either like it or you don’t.
The garden takes the abstract expression of natural forms and portrays a distillation of the natural landscape. The planting is laid out in vertical, horizontal and simple rectangular forms in similarity to the canvasses of De Stijl’s artists. The colour scheme also takes its influence from the movement, using blocks of bold colour and also whites in accordance with the work of the De Stijl artists.
Apart from the beautiful plants, which have been sourced from an extensive search of nurseries on the continent and in the UK, we will also be using concrete in a way which has not been seen at Chelsea before. I am very excited by this and we have been working for many months with the manufacturers in developing how this element of the garden will appear at the show. The panels are very unusual in that they use a subtle graphic image which appears on the concrete itself. This has been fascinating and enjoyable to develop. I really love becoming aware of new techniques and design solutions, but will only use them if they are truly appropriate to the environment and design with which I am working.
Ultimately, however, the design demonstrates the development of a garden which would suit a couple or family who wish to entertain and relax in their garden throughout the spring and summer months. The garden would have impact when viewed from upper floors of a house as well as when walking through or relaxing in the garden. I think it is immensely important to design a garden at Chelsea which can be understood as a ‘real’ and achievable garden, given how important gardens are now to our properties, both in a reflection of our lifestyle and as a way of adding value to the property.