Also in 2015, the day after getting pissed and cycling Boris bikes from Kensington to Soho, getting more pissed and laughing at shit improv jazz in Ronnie Scott’s and then sleeping for three hours, I dragged myself to the Chelsea Flower Show. Still pissed and reeling slightly from the wafting odours of middle-aged lady fragrances, I sauntered about getting lost in the myriad scenes of contrived, formatted landscaping/planting. I was making my way to the Best In Show garden, the Chatsworth trout stream, designed by Dan Pearson. I was lucky enough to get to walk upon its actual sods.
I have to admit, it was an impressive sight, thrusting skyward among the ocean of hairdo’s. The attention to detail, even from the outside, was stunning, with moss and wild sod bleeding out onto the path like it had been there for an age. Actually walking upon it, even in my dwindling inebriated state, was a transporting experience. There was not a single stem on this garden that jarred, with wilded turf blending seamlessly into the ancient looking stream edge, brushing up against the hulks of stone and flowing into the naturalistic planting. Cornus and pollarded Willow added maturity to compliment the limestone. A well-worn path in the meadow dawdled through the condensed landscape, itself, a fiendishly clever design which ensured the area had no beginning and no end in sight.
Dan Pearson is some sort of horticultural wizard with a deep knowledge of his chosen subjects. I also had the chance to attend a talk by him about the creation of the garden and he mentioned his draw toward and respect for the philosophical approach to gardening shown by the Japanese. Although, quite a tedious speaker, he speaks as if he would rather be out gazing at Epimediums (which he probably would), his approach to horticulture is admirable. He is deeply drawn to nature for his inspiration and speaks a lot of the ‘energy’ and ‘spirit’ created by using natural materials in his hard landscaping. His use of plants is massively advanced, using plants in the correct context within the sort of garden he is creating.
Visiting the Chelsea garden was like walking through a masterclass in horticultural manipulation. As gardeners we seek to create a space with a sense of atmosphere and place. We try to manipulate the environment in order to make it a better piece of world to be in, to be peaceful, yet dynamic, arresting, yet cohesive in its flow. Although a cynic might say that Chelsea winners are always pre-planned and part of a horticultural elite of circle jerking, there is no doubt in my mind that the garden thoroughly deserved to win. I have great respect for Dan Pearson’s vision and I have equal respect to the team that assembled the garden, not a shabby bit of work or cut corner anywhere.
I have yet to get to Chatsworth to see how the garden translates into its elongated form, with the chance of actual contamination of the meadow by the more unsavoury members of the field. If it turns out even 10% as well as this Chelsea show garden was, it’ll still be about 60% better than a lot of the other shite that was on display there that year.