12 May 2014
As I write this on Sunday afternoon, 11th May on a break from being on site at Chelsea, I realise that it is exactly six months since the RHS announced that my garden, No Man’s Land was to go ahead. Rather fittingly for a garden designed to mark the centenary of World War One, they announced this on Remembrance Day, November 11th. And what a big adventure it has been since then!
It all seemed rather far away but now we are only one week from the first visit of the RHS assessors next Sunday and I think we are making good headway.
The walls clad in composite concrete are all in place, Nick and Steve and the rest of the team from Gray Concrete have worked long hours to ensure that these Carla Scarpa inspired walls look fantastic and set off the trees and planting to best effect. When sun hits the walls, it creates wonderful reflections as shown in this photograph.
Brian Herbert of Outdoor Options team of guys have worked up 12 and 13 hours a day, everyday to get the garden to the stage we are at now.
They have been brilliant and unstinting in their attention of detail. Thought I should bring in some lunch last weekend as they worked right through the Bank Holiday weekend.
Charles and Sam of Location Landscapes have done a brilliant job of getting the trees in and in particular, laying the amazing hairy grass on the mound and surrounding undulations which has been grown for us by Wildflower Turf.
People have commented on the beautiful wild grass and it led me to rethink slightly the planting around it as it is so full of life and texture that I have decided to pare down the surrounding planting so as not to detract from its grace and form. It now stands proudly at the far end of the garden.
The planting team from Garden Makers, Louise Cummins, Caroline de Lane Lea and Christine Poppelwell of Echinops Garden Design are now working their magic with the plants, fitting tiny little wild and semi-wild species into tiny holes next to magnificent wild roses and Taxus baccata globes to get the most natural look we can around the grass mound.
Literally thousands of plants have been grown for the garden and now that they are beginning to arrive on site, the best specimens have to be selected, cleaned up, combed and crimped so that they look their best. My home team, Juliet Hutt and Nicola Pusterla are working with Garden Makers and Echinops and Rachel Hutson and Annabelle Nabarro to get them up to scratch. We have already started on the planting and will be continuing all week until Saturday.
We had a few VIP visits this week Martin Rutledge the Chief Executive of my charity partners, ABF The Soldiers Charity and Antoinette and Natalie from one of our sponsors, Coutts popped in to check on progress.
Martin Rutledge is shown here talking to Chris Parrott, who was supported by the ABF through retraining in horticulture after leaving the British Army due to injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Chris is now part of the team and is helping build the garden.
We have already had some good publicity this week on BBC TV’s The One Show and the BBC were also filming for Countdown to Chelsea this Sunday when I did a short interview with fellow garden designer and multi Gold medal winner Andy Sturgeon. Charlie Hopkinson managed to grab a shot of this while the cameras were rolling. Charlie is a wonderful photographer who is recording the whole build of the garden for the ABF many of the photos I have been including in my Chelsea Diary are Charlie’s work.
Extract from The Old Front Line by John Masefield
The old front line was the base from which the battle proceeded. It was the starting place.The thing began there. It was the biggest battle in which our people were ever engaged, and so far it has led to bigger results than any battle of this war since the Battle of the Marne. It caused a great falling back of the enemy armies. It freed a great tract of France, seventy miles long, by from ten to twenty-five miles broad. It first gave the enemy the knowledge that he was beaten.
Very many of our people never lived to know the result of even the first day’s fighting. For then the old front line was the battlefield, and the No Man’s Land the prize of the battle. They never heard the cheer of victory nor looked into an enemy trench. Some among them never even saw the No Man’s Land, but died in the summer morning from some shell in the trench in the old front line here described.