Robert and Lesley go to town on the urban gardens at Chelsea:

It is perhaps best to say at the outset that, as garden designers, we are looking at the design of the gardens and their usefulness and beauty for people who possibly might own them, rather than any arcane and judgely concentration on the minutiae of execution.

Thus for us The Thrive Garden, designed by Jo Thompson justifiably won a Gold and Best  Category:

Its aethos was that age and disability need not cut short the urge to garden. ‘Pale and elegant’ in its hard surfaces, we found the softscape busy in places. The bollards to light and assist the mature person’s gardening seemed a heavy feature – would they ever be in the right place?

But the genius of the garden was the glowing trunks of the multi – stemmed Prunus serrula against the white walls:

Whether the pallor of the walls would uplift enough in say a British winter is a matter of question.

As chic, The University of Worcester Garden combined strong, glowing and pale colours in its hard surfaces to advantage:


But again the planting was busy, busy, busy:

Compare the unrealistic planting above to that in The Dyslexia Research Trust garden below:

We talked to the designer Tim Fowler who said that he planted show gardens ‘as you do your own garden.’ Exactly!

This was an interesting little garden, with metaphor, division of space, both journey and reward, and a clear message about the DRT’s research into the real breakthrough that coloured written information represents. Disappointing then that it received only a bronze.

Equally disappointing for one of us was a bronze for David Domoney’s jewel box and gem encrusted Ace of Diamonds:

One of us thought it deliciously vulgar. The other just thought it vulgar. Hey ho, any partnership has to be able to encompass differences. So we are not going to dissolve our business on the basis of it!

As frankly bizarre was the abstracted, Zen inspired, contemporary dry water garden: 


We got the concept, but maybe we weren’t zenned out enough to want it.

More relaxed was Nicholas Dexter’s Naturally Fashionable Garden:


Inspired by the textile industry, the layout  reflected the defined geometry of Sonia Delaunay who we like. If you have to have a ‘pavillion’ this was light enough to live with – more on pavillions tomorrow! The stumperies both vertical, in fact hanging out the wall, and across the garden give texture, but were too dominant. As to a stream running through them, what is the longevity of that?

But the naturalistic planting, at which he excels, we loved by the bucket load.

Kate Gould revisited her sunken garden theme of last year:

More complex and sophisticated it was also less cheerful. And exactly where is the climate that allows these sort of accoutrements without a lot of taking out and putting away? By the way we have had enough log stores. Even elegant ones like these!

It was however designed space for humans. Whereas the Bradstone Biodiversity below was intent on emphasizing ‘multilayered habitats.’

Perhaps disproportionately and unrealistically so. Beautiful colours in the planting though!

In The Go Modern Garden Jamie Dunstan tried to have his cake and eat it, his concept being that you could grow mediterranean plants in a moist garden, by raising the soil profile using natural stone walling and importing free draining soil.  True, but unecological. Buying into the site you have is always best or you have a floristic jarr like this:

But we loved the ramp with its birch filled, asymetrically placed, rusted steel containers:  

The Growing World Class Talent used and celebrated vocational skills for the young:

The feel of this garden was essentially rural rather than urban, with the exception of the sofa on the piece of decking at the end of the pond which felt as though it had landed from outer space! We liked the balance of hard and soft landscape, the understated planting, and the nesting sites and  flint work in the old brick walls.

 The John Joseph Mechi Garden celebrated 150 years of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, 125 years of producing preserves at Tiptree and presumably someone having the guts to use Rhubarb for vertical planting:

Champagne was in evidence, even in the wall mounted water feature at the back. Well, we are sure it was water, but you know…..

We hated the colours within, but loved the woven willow boundary:

Tony Smith is very much the Maitre d’ of conceptual garden design in the UK. It was therefore no surprise that there was much scratching of heads over his Urban Plantaholic’s Kitchen Garden when we visited on one of the members’ days. To the front, water drips from the roof of a grass lined modernist grotto:


Tree ferns are fronted by a massed planting of pink tulips and fennel.

Around the side a window gives onto a chic kitchen completely taken over by orchids. This had one couple completely stumped. ‘It must be something to do with the one round the corner’ the woman decided, pointing to the neighbouring Growing World Class Talent garden. So that message went well and truly out into the ether. To our mind concept gardens deserve a category of their own!

Log onto the link below, and via ‘gardens’ and then the categories of garden, show, urban etc you can access far more info that we have had time to give here, including 360 degree vision etc: