The trials and tribulations of a show garden

Well it may not be Chelsea, but there were plenty of things to go awry. Initially I was asked if I could adjust my design to fit a different site, and then the dimensions changed once Jacksons started installing the acoustic fencing around the whole display area. Next it was found that there was reinforced concrete under the whole site, and the only space to put a tree was in the top right corner where they had broken up the concrete, so the design was flipped to reflect this fact. After doing the planting plan, the design was flipped back again as the wall forming part of the water feature had already been built off-site to the original specification.

Paradise Garden - Phase 1 in which the concrete mixer takes pride of place

On my first visit, I was expecting to see the bare bones of the garden, instead of which I was greeted by a heap of compacted soil with a concrete mixer in the middle as the contractors were using the site as access for building the two other show gardens and revamping the four from last year. I planned a return visit the following week to begin the planting only to discover that the designated nursery wasn’t going to be able to deliver the plants on time. Just as well really, as the garden was still in its infancy and I would only have been in the way of the contractors.

As the nursery was supplying plants for the Chelsea Flower Show, there were a number of varieties which were no longer available, so I had fun visiting local nurseries and garden centres to choose the missing plants. With a carload of plants and rising excitement, I drove down to Kent to see how things were getting on, but on my arrival I was still unable to start as there had been a hitch with the fence and the contractors were still installing it. So bright and early the following day I arrived to start setting out the plants, only to find the fencing was still being installed, and that the posts on the deck were much too tall.

Paradise Garden - Phase 2 in which the posts are too tall and the water feature needs connecting up

I had persuaded some gardening friends to come and help, and on their arrival we started planting the areas in the middle of the plot. As the day went on we managed to plant most of the plants. It was quite tricky as due to the reinforced concrete below, the garden had been raised by about 18″ with pure top soil, which would have been brilliant but for the fact it was ultra dry and compacted, and preparing the planted areas meant breaking up hard lumps, and then finding the sides of the holes would collapse, just like digging on the beach before the tide comes in.

We finished off the following morning, but as yet there was no sign of the water specialists arriving to connect up the water feature, so I left not knowing whether the water feature was going to work or not. There was to be no planting behind the wall as originally envisaged as the water feature required a large holding tank which was to be placed there instead, but we managed to screen the area with tall bamboos.

In the event the water feature was finally working at 5.30pm the evening before the launch, so the first time I saw it working was when I arrived for Jacksons’ Open Day.

Paradise Garden - Phase 3 in which it all came right on the night

The weather was spectacularly hot and sunny, and the show gardens were officially opened at midday by Joe Swift, garden designer and television presenter. I returned home that evening, relieved that everything had gone well, despite getting horribly sunburnt.

Show organiser Louise Tomlin (left) and Joe Swift (right)

Working water feature with planting

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About Borderline Garden Design

I work as a landscape and garden designer in the Oxfordshire/Berkshire area.
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