28th April 2014
Well, the build is nearly upon us after 18 months of planning we are nearly at zero hour. Cannot quite believe it! We are going on site tomorrow, 29th April, to set the garden out a day before the build actually begins. It will be very tricky as we have to sort out how we are going to set out all the components of the garden the long concrete wall, the large earth mound, steel wall at the end and the water basin within our 10 metre by 22 metre space. We are making another model, to a larger scale than our original one, to enable our landscape team to see how we want the shape of the mound we are going to have to create the mound based on our drawings but also on the model as it needs to look as natural as possible. Once setting out is complete, the landscape team will be there for 17 days building the garden.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have given final approval for the last of the surfaces, finishes and materials. And as one would expect, there have been some issues which needed quick decisions. We are still awaiting replacement limestone setts from France as a large number of the first batch was unusable as the colour was not suitable. Let’s hope they arrive very soon otherwise, I will be winging my way over to pick and select them myself! Our metal workers, Booths have produced fantastic panels for the end wall but the finish was not quite what we wanted so we had to reconsider this and have now found a solution.
Outdoor Options is doing a wonderful job of fabricating the framework for the trench walls and the tunnels in their workshop. We were able to actually walk in the tunnel and I had a try our mounting block style steps for one end of the sunken path.
We will then be cladding this structure on site with a composite concrete being made by Gray Concrete. The polished plaster finish for some of the other surfaces has now been approved and the gravel for our paths has been selected.
I had already been down to Hampshire to visit Wildflower Turf in December to look at the type of grass to be used for the mound and for the surrounding undulations. I went down again last week with one of my team to look at it four months on. And I will be going down again to make a final selection of which grass mix we will use. It is really a question of what percentage of the grass is given over to wildflower mix.
We have also been down to Kelways to see how our plants are going. In common with all other designers creating show gardens, there will be some species which have been grown but which have either come on too fast and have already flowered or simply are not growing well at all this year. Our burgundy astrantias and some of our Iris were not looking very happy so we will have to substitute for something else.
Dave Root will be looking at these options for us. I also went down to Hortus loci on Saturday to pay our lovely trees a visit. And they are looking amazingly dapper for this time of year. One of the Acers is a little smaller than the other and is slightly less flush with growth but these trees are more than 40 years old and were grown from seed so like humans, no two are the same.
The media coverage is beginning to hot up. The Daily Telegraph published a really wonderful piece on the No Man’s Land garden which went into some detail about the World War One background. And a number of magazines including Homes & Gardens, The English Garden and Saga Magazine have also published articles on Chelsea which include quite a bit about my garden.
The BBC Red Button team also filmed all the Chelsea designers at RHS Wisley for the People’s Choice Award. People can press the red button on BBC TV to see the background on all designers so that they can choose which garden to vote for. It was a bit of a challenge filming at Wisley in the run up to Easter as there were hundreds of children everywhere taking part in the Easter Bunny Hunt, so the BBC sound recordist struggled to get a level for his sound!
Tomorrow morning I finalise the judges brief on which the RHS assessors base their judgement and the points awarded to each garden. This is a key document which I need to get right.
Next time I write, we will be well underway. Let’s hope it all goes okay. Something is bound to go awry at some point but we will just have take it in our stride to find a solution!
Move him into the sun
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it awoke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?