The container has been on the sea for nearly two months and it finally arrived at the Crocus nursery this morning. It was constructed in Japan by Kengo Kuma’s workmen and it was with a great sense of relief that we started to unload it this morning. Any delays on the sea (sunamis, Somali pirates etc) or at custom clearance would have seriously jeopardised the Laurent-Perrier garden. It was beautifully packed and will soon be going to the Show Ground.
We don’t start in earnest at Chelsea until tomorrow but the RHS have kindly allowed the Main Garden builders to start today by setting out the gardens. This makes a huge difference because when the teams turn up tomorrow, both our gardens will be marked out and they can get cracking with the excavation works. One of the most impressive sights is how they construct the Main Tent. It’s lifted on hydraulic motors and all happens in quite a short time.
It’s difficult to believe that we only have 19 days to go and that during that time we need to turn a flat piece of ground into two Show Gardens. But it’s the same for everyone. Our main problem at the moment is that the recent warm weather has really forced on our plants so we have been desperately trying to slow them down in our shade tunnels – with limited success.
If you havn’t watched any of the videos that Joe, Cleve and James have produced, I strongly suggest you go onto You Tube and watch them. The link below shows the three of them at the Crocus nursery messing about in the style of Morecambe and Wise.
Their webiste says ’3 Men Went 2 Mow are garden designers, Joe Swift, Cleve West and James Alexander-Sinclair. Joe is the loud one, James is the posh one in a hat and Cleve is the smouldering one with the RHS Gold Medals. None of them own a dog named ‘Spot’.
It’s always quite difficult for designers to imagine what the trees might look like at Chelsea when you are ‘tagging’ them in a cold field in Germany or Belgium. The problem this gives us is that when it comes to building the garden at the Chelsea Flower Show itself, the worst possible outcome is for us to plant the trees, for the designer to then change his mind and ask us to move them. It’s quite dispiriting to do any work twice but the most important factor is that it costs us valuable time. To avoid this, last week we set out the entire garden down at the Crocus nursery and positioned each tree in the correct place. Luciano could then look at each tree and decide if he was happy with it. All 12 trees were reviewed and every one numbered and the front marked so that we know exactly which tree to plant where.
Luciano recently visited Kengo Kuma’s offices to see progress on the building of the pavilion for the Laurent-Perrier garden. The building was complete by the time that Luciano got to Japan and so he was able to get a feel for how the structure will fit within the garden. It is looking fantastic and is now making its way by sea over the the Crocus offices in Windlesham.
Luciano and Andrew Ewing went to Burlington Stone to choose the pieces of slate stone for the water feature. Burlington is a quarry in the middle of the Lake District and is surrounded by beautiful countryside. Having chosen the stone, the quarry set the stone slabs out in the position that they will be used in the garden. That way Luciano and Andrew, who is building the pool, can get a good idea of how the stones will fit within the whole design.
Over the years we have developed a good network of nurseries across the UK and Europe. Different countries are better than others at specific varieties and the German nurseries are very good at clipped hedging and large trees. Here is Luciano visiting Bruns nursery in Northern Germany to tag the exact plants that he is looking for to be used in the Laurent-Perrier garden this year. This will be shipped over to the Crocus nursery in late March in time to acclimatize to the UK environment.
An integral part of Luciano’s design is a 16 metre pool with water flowing between slate rocks. It’s critical that the rocks sit naturally in the water and so the choice of the shape and size of the rocks is important. The photographs show Luciano visiting the Burlington quarry in Cumbria to pick out the individual pieces of stone.
I have never added up the total number of hours of planning that go into a Chelsea Garden but it’s a lot. We all got together yesterday to go through some of the details of the Laurent-Perrier garden with Jono, Luciano and Andrew Ewing. Andrew has been involved in many Chelsea gardens and specialises in producing really wonderful water features. He has worked on both Tom Stuart-Smith’s and Luciano’s gardens at Chelsea in the past. One of the issues we are facing this year is the fact that the building in the centre of the garden is being designed and built by Kengo Kuma, an internationally famous Japanese architect. The building is being sent over from Japan in segments and we need to make sure that everything is prepared in advance to aoid any problems on site.