The Chelsea Flower Show may be famous for its immaculate show gardens, manicured lawns and razor-cut paving. But the coveted Best in Show award was yesterday granted to a rugged rocky garden, dominated by native English wildflowers and windswept grasses.
Inspired by the Derbyshire landscape, designer Dan Pearson built his garden with 300 tons of rock from Chatsworth estate in the Peak District.
Ten flat-bed lorries carried monumental blocks of gritstone down the M1 to Chelsea, where Mr Pearson added three tonnes of leaf mould, a large weeping willow and thousands of native plants.
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Best in show: Designer Dan Pearson (pictured) built his garden with 300 tons of rock from Chatsworth Estate in the Peak District
Commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to represent their 105-acre Chatsworth estate, Mr Pearson was determined to create a natural display which would inspire people’s gardening styles.
‘There has been a move back to naturalised planting over the last few years, ’ he said. ‘Gardens are a sanctuary – for plants, for wildlife and for people. A few rough places in the garden can be a delight.’
Mr Pearson, a veteran designer who last exhibited at Chelsea 11 years ago, said he was persuaded to return by the Duke of Devonshire’s insistence that the garden be returned to Chatsworth afterwards.
‘This was an opportunity to do a garden that would have a life after the show, ’ he said. ‘The Duke and Duchess were completely behind this, it was a great opportunity to do something thoroughly.’
His garden, sponsored by Laurent-Perrier, draws on two parts of Chatsworth – the rockery built by the 19th-century designer Sir Joseph Paxton, and a trout stream which flows through the estate.
Commissioned by the Duke (centre right) and Duchess of Devonshire (far right) to represent their 105-acre estate, Mr Pearson (centre left) was determined to create a natural display which would inspire people to garden
Mr Pearson (left), a veteran designer who last exhibited at Chelsea 11 years ago, said he was persuaded to return by the Duke of Devonshire’s (right) insistence that the garden be taken to Chatsworth afterwards
International: Many gardens took foreign horticulture as their inspiration, including this Thailand Land Of Buddhism exhibit made from more than 100, 000 flowers
Hide and seek: A visitor admires the floral banquet that is the Grand Pavilion, the show’s main indoor arena
Mr Pearson is also the designer of London’s Garden Bridge, a £175 million project due to be completed in 2018.
As a squall of rain swept over Chelsea, Mr Pearson said: ‘This is real Derbyshire weather, it feels better in the rain, it softens it down, you get all the opportunity for the pitter patter on the water.’
Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, said he was delighted at the award.
‘Many of the plantings will return to the trout stream area of the Chatsworth Garden, so we are thrilled that the legacy of the Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth garden at Chelsea will live on for visitors to enjoy for many years to come.’
Experts said the Royal Horticultural Society judges’ decision to award Mr Pearson’s garden Best in Show represented a shift away from the formality which has dominated the show in previous years.
Feeling fragrant: The wet weather didn’t detract from the enjoyment of those attending the famous show. Pictured, Paola Orsero visiting from Alassio in Italy puts her nose to a rose in the Grand Pavilion
Hard to believe we’re in London: Visitors walk past the tranquil Edo no Niwa garden as the rain eased
Dapper: A visitor breezes past a display full of perky flowers
Sssensational: A shell sculpture of ‘Medusa’ against the dark skies
Harry Rich, 27 (right) won a gold medal for the Cloudy Bay garden he designed with his brother David, 24 (left)
Harry Rich, 27, who won a gold medal for the Cloudy Bay garden he designed with his brother David, 24, said this year’s Chelsea has seen far more natural planting.
‘It is something that the public can take away from the show and use in their own gardens, ’ he said.
‘In our garden we have not used any plants that are hard to get hold of. We have also used plants that are not out yet – in a normal garden it is not perfect all the time, things flower at different times.’
Amateur gardener Sean Murray, who won a place at the show through the BBC’S Great Chelsea Garden Challenge programme, also selected British plants for his garden.
‘This typically an English garden, in an English climate, and the plants adore it, ’ said Mr Murray, an occupational therapist from Northumberland who was given a chance to design a plot on Chelsea’s prestigious Main Avenue.
‘The rain has freshened them up and they are looking a lot better thanks to the rain. This is a look that anyone could achieve in their own front garden.’
Floral delight: A woman opts for a camouflage effect in her very fitting hat
The all-important selfie stick: A visitor crouches down to get the perfect shot
Anyone fancy a cuppa? A giant teapot covered in blooms attracted lots of attention from visitors
You what? An optical illusion in the reflection at the World Vision Garden
Steady on: Stone balancing sculptor Adrian Gray (pictured) took to demonstrating some of his skills
Whatever the weather: The show, which has run annually since 1913, is expected to draw around 157, 000 visitors
The era of the camera phone! Snap-happy visitors view the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities show garden
Alan Titchmarsh, a visitor at the site after years of presenting the BBC’s Chelsea coverage, welcomed the more natural look.
‘I’m pleased to see that there are more curves, more informality this year, he said. ‘It has been very formal in recent years and I think we are beginning to see a move away from that.’