The Chelsea Flower Show’s ‘Best in Show’ for 2015 is, of course, the Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden, designed by Dan Pearson. Why do I say ‘of course’?
Long before any of the Chelsea gardens were being built, and there was only a drawn ‘sketch up’ plan and a short written brief to indicate any designer’s intentions, I was reading how Dan Pearson would be certain to win both a Gold medal and Best in Show. Before the judging, his ‘odds’ were described in the UK Telegraph as 3-1, ahead of his nearest rival, Chris Beardshaw at 5-1. (Whether there’s an actual betting thing re Chelsea medals, I don’t know. Certainly if it were in gambling-addicted Australia, there would be.)
When Pearson hasn’t exhibited at Chelsea for 10 years and his last appearance earned him a Silver Gilt medal, why was his garden considered to be such a sure thing for the gong?
Maybe it’s money. With the combined input of Laurent Perrier and Chatsworth House the budget is, no doubt, enormous. And there’s also no doubt that Dan Pearson is a wonderfully talented designer, noted for his naturalistic planting.
But I did get a sense that Pearson was being feted by the media as a prodigal who had returned after a long and lamented absence to the Chelsea club fold. That’s not his fault or doing of course, but it made me sense days before the judging that his win was inevitable.
Pearson’s design brief for the garden described it as:
“a representation of a small – less trodden – part of the 105 acre Chatsworth Garden……In line with Pearson’s passion for naturalism and the wilder side of gardening, the exhibit is
inspired by Chatsworth’s ornamental Trout Stream and Paxton’s rockery. Planting reflects the lightness, freshness and delicacy of the 200-year old family owned Chatsworth House.”
It’s a curious garden. Without having seen it ‘in the flesh’ I’m hesitant to make pronouncements about it (yes, can you believe it?), but it reminds me of a bush clearing that I loved as a child. Different continents and plants of course, but a similar aesthetic and ambience. Which makes me wonder – is it really a garden? Or just an astonishingly accurate reproduction of a natural area? I’m not convinced that one can be the other.
Designed to be viewed on each sides of its triangular site, it’s also a difficult garden to photograph and I’m sure all the journos covering the show this year are cursing the judges’ choice. A ‘see through’ garden is impossible to photograph well as the scenery beyond is usually lots of people, other gardens, tents, buildings and distracting visual clutter.
It’s interesting to see a winning garden at Chelsea, the fashion catwalk of show gardening, that is so unstructured. No paving, no walls, no pavilion. Maybe it’s a reflection of current clothes fashions that show a preference for similarly unstructured garments.