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Chelsea Flower Show winners 2017



May 26, 2017

James Basson wins Best in Show at Chelsea 2017. Photo Luke MacGregor

This year’s Chelsea Flowers Show had another controversial Best in Show winner this year, with a garden variously described as “sparse“, a “concrete jungle“, “brutalist” and “weedy“. Although some garden designers have worked their intellectual way behind and around the mass of concrete columns and found its charm, apparently most show goers do not.

James Basson’s garden is a homage to the natural vegetation of Malta, which is planted among short, blocky rendered concrete columns alongside three tall limestone pillars that represent an abandoned quarry. It’s a sort of ‘nature taking back its own’ design, as small plants sprout from every crack and crevice.

Some more unkind criticisms have likened it to the Memorial to Murdered Jews in Berlin and even suggested that as it’s M&G’s last sponsored Chelsea garden, it was a foregone conclusion that it would have to win Best in Show. Certainly the feedback from the general public is mostly uncomplimentary and even those who analysed it carefully have pointed out the difference between liking it in concept and then not liking what they actually see before them.

For exceedingly good analyses of the M&G Garden 2017, read:

Dan Cooper’s ‘The Frustrated Gardener’ verdict here

Janna Schreier’s assessment here


Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Medal Winners

Show Gardens 2017

Best in Show: ‘M&G Garden’, design James Basson
‘Breaking Ground’, design Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam
‘Royal Bank of Canada Garden’, design Charlotte Harris
‘Garden for Maggie’s’ design Darren Hawkes

‘Silk Road Garden’ design Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins
The Morgan Stanley Garden, design Chris Beardshaw

‘500 Years of Covent Garden’, design Lee Bestall
‘Welcome to Yorkshire’, design Tracy Foster


Artisan Gardens 2017

Best in Show Artisan Garden: ‘Walker’s Wharf’ design Graham Bodle
‘Gosho No Niwa : No Wall, No War’, design Kazuyuki Ishihara
‘Seedlip Garden’ design Dr Catherine MacDonald
‘World Horse Welfare Garden’ by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith
‘Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden’, design Gary Breeze
‘Viking Cruises Garden of Inspiration’, design Sarah Eberle

‘Hidden Leaves’, design Shuko Noda

‘CWGC Centenary Garden’, design David Domoney
‘Poetry Lover’s Garden’, design Fiona Cadwallader


Fresh Gardens 2017

Best in Show Fresh Garden: ‘City Living’, design Kate Gould (Best Fresh Garden)
‘Mind Trap’, design Ian Price

‘Through the Microscope’ design Ruth Willmott
‘Beneath a Mexican Sky’, design Manoj Malde

‘The Bermuda Triangle’, design Jack Dunckley

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Sabine Sp
Sabine Sp
6 years ago

It is very easy to form an opinion from one image of a garden, but there is so much more to this design than the blocks. personally I would have preferred the softer look of rocks, but that’s just my opinion. Here are more images: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens/2017/the-m-g-garden-2017

Catherine Stewart
6 years ago
Reply to  Sabine Sp

Hi Sabine – there are lots of photos of this garden on the sites I’ve linked to – Dan Cooper’s ‘The Frustrated Gardener’ and Janna Schreier’s blog site. I’ve looked at all of them and I can’t say it speaks to me. I feel that there’s a very uneasy tension between the wispy planting and the heavy solidity of the concrete blocks that I just don’t like. While I am a fan of Basson’s work, I don’t think this is a good garden.

6 years ago

I think this idea would work great in a setting like WA Pinacles near Lancelin, just North from where we live. Imagine the limestone outcrops under-planted with leschenaultias, verticordias, eremophilas, orchids and other ground hugging locals. One could make it on a small scale with smaller rock than those in Pinacles Park. I do not like the “forest” of blocks with plants taking over in the Chelsea winner.

6 years ago

In the last days I was reading the comments of my Italian friends who went to Chelsea. Almost immediately one of them said that this garden looks like a pet cemetery…well, it does. As a designer, we always should know that when we design something especially for a show, people get a first impression in few seconds and nothing will make that judgement change. Our mind needs to make comparisons and it always chooses the easier reference.
A meaningful explanation unfortunately can’t change the mind of who thinks that this garden looks something else…