You find the show’s Courtyard Garden Category in a rather dank and dismal dell in the depths of Ranelagh Gardens. No more alliteration in this post we promise!

The gardens in this category, the RHS says with a straight face, are ‘more traditional country style gardens’ compared, that is, to urban gardens (see next post) which are ‘designed for modern city living.’ 

So why are there so many million courtyard gardens in British towns packed to the gunwales with modern city living.

And why do we find ourselves, in this category, looking at this:

We would have called this alpine landscape by Francesco Decembrini and Danielle Zanzi  conceptual in feel. It may represent the Dolomitic landscape and its plants, but ‘ traditional country style’? No.

And a garden? Well, no to that too!

The Centenary Garden for Captain Scott reflected  both opulent homes in the thriving Edwardian city of Cardiff and Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic which sailed from Cardiff:


You certainly feel the Edwardian richesse. But we think that any thrusting merchant of that time would have been a bit miffed to sit on the rather strange seat and look straight at a totem pole. And the nautical, historical and social themes do make uncomfortable bedfellows. One theme too many?

With more of a country feel and most definitely with fun in mind the Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Crumble Garden engaged us, with its playful spoonlike seat and the drystone wall representing  the topping from a deconstructed crumble:


We would have been engaged even more had the Sedum ‘custard’ not looked rather green and had  the trail not ended in:

a painted yellow circle. However, and it is a huge word, no hint of maudlin recreation, which was more than could be said for The Pine and Conifer Enthusiast Garden, which won silver gilt or the gold medal winning, best of category, Music on the Moors.

 Of rather more substance was Amber Goudy’s  Sustainable Highland Garden:

Words like sustainable and renewable are now so de rigueur that they scarcely need to be mentioned. But the sexy bit of kit here was these baffles connected to a wind turbine on the roof which closes them in rough weather thus protecting the crops. For all the world like a sculptural mobile. We want them!

More disturbing was Global Stone’s Bee Friendly Garden designed by Janey Auchincloss and Paul Hammond:

 Highlighting the plight of the honeybee and a play on apian shapes and colours……

……we would have called this busily (as a bee!) chic. But there was no disputing the drum role of the Albert Eistein quote on the back wall:


As ominous was Jane Owen’s Rainforest Garden for Green and Black’s:

On either side of the banana leaved hut, with its inky aperture, a chainsaw and a gun are solemn reminders of the threat to the Cameroonian rainforest and its peoples posed by illegal logging and bush meat hunting. And the sight of the elegant Cameroonian indigenous ladies, who are seeking to raise our awareness, assisting in making this garden was one of the most memorable pieces of Chelsea TV coverage.

But are these gardens?

Just as message can destroy creative spirit in say art, it can also lay equally heavy in gardens.

Most definitely not leaden, The ‘Christian before Dior’ garden celebrated the designer’s early love of gardens and plants which majorly influenced his couture collections and perfumes. Maybe that is why it works:

In his favourite colours of pink, grey, white and mauve, Patricia Thirion and Janet Honour have created useable and restorative space:

As designers we find that people do expect to use their garden and message is not a top priority.

This simple classic layout and colour scheme could easily be transposed to many gardens.

Of all the gardens in this category you wondered what they would do with a larger site and a larger budget and you wanted them to do it!

It got a bronze. Wouldn’t you know?

The current dichotomy between the Courtyard Gardens covered here and the Urban Gardens, which we cover in the next post, seems specious to say the least.

Our impression is that the idea of small gardens at Chelsea needs to be more defined by the Show ‘powers that be’.

More next post!

Robert and Lesley