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/
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!
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.
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.
The parrotias have been arriving at Chelsea and are looking magnificent. Back in April Luciano came to the Crocus nursery to work out exactly which tree was to go where in the garden. We even marked out the entire garden and numbered each one. So when we got to site this morning, we thought – no problem. But Luciano decided that he wanted to change the layout – so much for forward planning. Luckily it was not a big deal and we changed them around without a problem. The only thing I said is that once we have planted them, we can’t move them!
Building a Chelsea garden brings together so many different people and trades. When we finish the garden, I will add up exactly the number of people who will have worked on the Laurent-Perrier garden but I bet it will be about 50 people – maybe more. So on the same day that Mark, Gary and Terry are pouring concrete for the water rill, and Graham is planting the hornbeam hedging, Luciano is down at the Crocus nursery working with Spirry to try and determine the exact combination of plants that he wants. It’s a really good idea to spend some time on the nursery looking at the plants because it allows the designer to spend some time, not surrounded by the chaos of Chelsea, to really think about the right combinations.
Finally, Graham won’t thank me for this but Nicolle, from Luciano’s office, came to help us yesterday and I managed to catch them on camera, with Nicolle doing all the work and Graham and Mark just standing around watching!
You could be forgiven for mistaking our pipework going into the Laurent-Perrier garden for some major new installation by Thames Water but you would be wrong. It’s actually Andrew Ewing’s water feature being installed. The challenge is that Luciano wants to have a substantial flow of water down the central channel and to achieve this we need a significant amount of water as well as pumps.