Both the Telegraph garden and the Laurent-Perrier garden have made really good progress this last week. The Laurent-Perrier garden has developed a wonderful sense of calm about it, which is mainly due to the beautiful structure in the middle. We unloaded the first wave of plants this evening so we will get stuck into the planting first thing tomorrow morning. On the Telegraph garden, Cleve couldn’t wait and, with the very professional help of Chris and Toby Marchant, started planting this afternoon. It’s very nice to have both gardens ready for planting when so many of the other gardens are still building (not that we are competitive or anything….)
As you might have read in the press, the weather this year has been really unhelpful when it comes to preparing plants for this year’s Chelsea. We are used to slowing plants down but not to the extent that we have had to do this year. As a result, quite a few of the plants will be over but luckily both Luciano and Cleve have got lots of alternatives to choose from. Nearly all the plants are in shade tunnels at the moment, trying to keep the sun and warmth off them as much as possible. We are also having to wash all the cobbles that are going into the water features for both gardens. We need the water to be crystal clear and it’s a lot easier to do this back at the Crocus nursery than up at Chelsea.
Peter Randall-Page is one of the UK’s most highly respected artists. His work can be found at the Tate, the British Museum, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Dulwich Picture Gallery as well as many other galleries both in the UK and around the world. So we have been extremely lucky that he agreed to help Luciano with the Laurent-Perrier garden. The three boulders look magnificent and sit very naturally within the garden.
As some of you might know, we have built all of Tom’s gardens at Chelsea for the last 8 years. This year he is having a rest from Chelsea and instead is putting on an exhibition at the Garden Museum (right next to Lambeth Palace, on the opposite side of the river to the Houses of Parliament). It’s a real opportunity to see some of Tom’s work outside of Chelsea and I would strongly recommend it. He is also giving talks at the Museum on the 8th, 15th and 22nd of June. You can contact the Museum via their website http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/
Our aim is to start planting on Monday so we try very hard to get all the hard landscaping finished by Sunday night. So far, we are on track for this with the last few pre-assembled sections of dry stone walling going into place this morning. The plasterers put the final coat of render on the wall so it should all be ready in time. The forecast is for a bit of rain but there is no sign of that yet.
The pavilion was constructed in Japan and two of Kengo Kuma’s staff came over to help assemble it at Chelsea. But it is always a nerve-racking moment when the time comes to put it all together. I have included lots of photos of the assembly simply because it is quite difficult to describe how it all went. At one stage even I had to get involved to help out!
There was a distinct sense of nervousness on site this morning on the Daily Telegraph garden. The columns had arrived from France yesterday and we needed to start installing them today. Like anything you have not done before, you get nervous about getting it right, especially when each column is worth several thousands of pounds and weighs over a tonne. But the team, under Tony Collinson, took it slowly and had installed two by 10.00. They look magnificent and will really define the character of the garden. Cleve was a happy bunny!
We have some important days coming up on the Laurent-Perrier garden. In order to start assembling the Kengo Kuma pavilion on Friday, we need to have installed the paving by close of play today. Each slab has been precisely drilled so that the pavilion can fit through the stone and into the structure underneath. So everything has to be accurate to a few millimetres – not easy at the best of times and certainly not in a stressful environment like Chelsea. At the same time, Andrew Ewing and his team have been installing the water feature. Each of the stones, weighing a few hundred kilos, have to be laid exactly flat so that the water flows over the edge in a consistent way. Not easy, but Andrew has done it many times before.
David has worked wonders with the dry stone walling on his first day. The first buttress is complete and he will probably finish the second one by Wednesday morning. Whilst the traditional method is to lay the stone horizontally, the edge walling is layed vertically which looks wonderful. Tomorrow, the sculptured columns arrive from France which will be a major event and should start giving the garden its real character. The central section of the garden is sunken and you already can get a feel for the sense of space.
It seems as if we have been on site for much longer than a week but it has only been 7 days. Progress has been good with the liner to the pool being installed today and the first row of Parrotia Persica trees being planted. The sculptured branches of the trees really stand out against the hornbeam hedge. Graham has been doing some finishing touches to the top of the hedge – the camera behind him looks like something from a MOD facility but it is actually a time lapse camera that Luciano has installed.