Chelsea 2013 – Small Gardens

While Kazuyuki Ishihara for his garden Satoyama Life won the best in show of the Artisan gardens I have to admit to being less enthusiastic.  Don’t misunderstand me, it was beautiful.  Perfectly designed and impeccably planted but this like the Roger Platt garden I discussed yesterday was almost identical to other gardens he has created in former years.

Perhaps I am being unrealistic and certainly I’m not someone who likes change for change’s sake, but surely if the RHS can’t persuade designers to be more original then they need to change the brief and be more critical of the designs when they are submitted and not just accept them because the designer is well respected.

My favourite in the Artisan category was UN GARREG – one stone by Welsh designers Harry and David Rich.  The planting was beautifully understated and their use of stone was exemplary.  Laying the stones vertically in parts of the traditional dry stone wall showed real ingenuity.

David and Harry Rich (I think)

David and Harry Rich (I think)

The Box ball seemed a little out of place

The Box ball seemed a little out of place, the wall behind was stunning.

The planting was nicely understated

The planting was nicely understated

Iris Sultan's Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

Iris Sultan’s Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

There were several gardens based on recreating a natural environment this year including the above Artisan garden, The Australian Garden winner of best in show and a garden in the Fresh category that illustrates a garden in the south of France after a fire by James Basson.

Living in a more or less Mediterranean climate myself (we have colder winters than ‘true’ Mediterranean climates) I was particularly interested in how the plants looked in this garden.

New growth emerges after the fire

New growth emerges after the fire

At least here ALL the plants were suitable for the climate.  I think they had been grown in the UK though because they were ‘soft’.  I’m not sure how else I would describe them. Plants grown in Italy (or France in this case) grow tough because they don’t receive copious amounts of water, the wind is strong and the sun is really hot, the lavender in particular hardly looked like the same plant.  But this is an observation not a criticism.  I felt the contrast between the dead trees (from the fire) and the new vibrant life growing underneath was evocative of ‘place’ in a way few of the other gardens achieved.