Coming up with a design for a Chelsea show garden can be quite a challenge, and some people might think there’s not much more to do between when it has been accepted by the RHS and when the build starts in early May. The reality is far from that. Whilst we will think about how elements might be constructed during the design phase, the design process is led by creativity rather than practicality.
At the minute, our time is very much focused on trying to make sure we can achieve what we set out in our original design, within the budget set by our sponsor, Darwin Alternatives. We are creating detailed construction drawings which will help our contractor, The Outdoor Room, to cost each element of the on-site construction and working carefully with our structural engineers to establish both how we will construct the largest element of the garden – the cantilevered pavilion – and how much it will cost. We are also refining the materials and planting palette so it all works cohesively. In all cases, if things are proving to be too expensive, we will look at what changes can be made or if alternative materials might be more affordable. This year, high levels of inflation are making it more difficult than ever to accurately estimate costs.
We also need to think about the logistics of what will be achievable on site. The RHS have a host of regulations and restrictions which we need to adhere to whilst there are also practical limitations on what can be achieved – getting large equipment or construction elements into central London is not easy, for example. We also need to ensure we have established a detailed time plan for what will be needed when – there’s no point in having all the plants turn up on the first day of the build, as the hard construction will need to be nearing completion before we start to think about planting.
We’re also having conversations with our neighbour at Chelsea, who will be on the other side of the dividing wall between our gardens. Sometimes what’s on the other side of the wall can have a significant impact on your own garden – if they have any very tall elements, for example, they might be seen in the backdrop of your own garden and may not sit well with the look you are trying to achieve. Luckily it doesn’t look like we’ll have that issue this year, but from our side, we will need to be very careful when we are excavating the section of our garden which will sit below ground level, to ensure that we don’t cause any problems on the other side of the wall – causing someone else’s garden to collapse would not go down well!