First week of build
On Day 1 as I was arriving on site, the nerves kicked in and the realisation of the magnitude that is RHS Chelsea hit me as I approached the iconic bullring gates, with the RHS Chelsea Flower show in the background on the front of the great pavilion.
Everyone was so very friendly and welcoming – RHS staff, fellow designers and the contractors. It felt like a very large extended family and with a few familiar faces from the show team when I was at RHS Tatton 3 years ago.
Putting my hands into the Chelsea soil was a real moment of pride and achievement for me. After all of these years, I had finally made it. I had my own space in the most prestigious flower show in the world. Scary, exciting and nerve tingling.
The construction/hard landscaping team got started straight away which helped settled nerves a little; they’re a great team of people, organised and professional and we all gelled incredibly well.
Marking the site out and seeing the different elements start to come off the page for the very first time in situ was exciting. It’s always a tense moment to check if your drawings were going to work in a real space!
Walls started going up, deliveries of materials from CED came on site. The weather was really in our favour as the site was clean, but the plane trees were giving everyone what I found out to be called the ‘Chelsea cough,’ caused by the pollen from the trees.
When we got to the large metal walls, the first one made me nervous; had I made the walls the right size…was the space going to work with over 3m of metal work looming above me? Once the other smaller walls went in, along with the pond, the space inside made sense and I knew that I had made the right choice.
The back boundary wall was a complete experiment for me as I had not used the steep sheets in such a way before. The overlapping, odd angles were skillfully assembled and capping put in place before making the neighbour’s boundary good.
With only some material deliveries being held up in the Chelsea show ground’s car park,
Steps and paths were then marked out and the incredibly skillful telehandler, Adam from the RHS show services team did an amazing job landing them with MM accuracy, all while smiling, even when we asked him to lift a tree out which needed replacing.
With the main structure completed we were swiftly on to planting. New helpers were welcomed, some old friends, some fellow designers from RHS Tatton and a few current Writtle students joined us over the few days.
Deliveries onto site were getting much busier, so we waited in anticipation for the Kelways lorry to show up in the queues of lorries and vans. We’ve all been a bit in awe of how incredibly well-organised the RHS have to be to make it work and it was an exciting moment seeing the plants revealed when the lorry door opened.
I always find it inspiring to see greenery go into the space just previously occupied by hard landscapers, soil and massive steel structures. The large shrubs and trees are always going to be a struggle to move given the size of them, and the lack of maneuvering space, but the garden started to come alive when the back beds were finished.
Planting went really well with some great work by both the current Writtle and ex Writtle students, who I hadn’t seen in 20 years!
Finalising the plants always takes time on a show garden, it’s the designer’s time to get picky and as you only get one shot with the judges, the pressure is on.
The water feature went in, was tested and worked with a pond grid installed and everything working a treat.
Towards the finish line the paths were covered and Cormac (Conway Landscapes) did his magic stone arranging to make the inside just how I had imagined, if not better. Genius.
Show opening and judging comes ever closer and the teams of both hard and soft landscapers working in close proximity has had the best atmosphere.
Never have I been as tired but as happy, humbled and proud to have worked alongside such an amazing team that up until Chelsea, I had mostly not met.
Now to wait for the Judges’ opinion.