5th May 2014
The build on-site at Chelsea at last
We were the first on site on 29th April. Our virgin plot was made available for setting out and checking levels so that we could make a clear start the following the day, 30th April, the official build start date. Only some of the large Main Avenue show gardens are allowed on so early due to the size and scope.
We have 17 days to build the garden which sounds a long time but it is not. The Outdoor Options landscape team of amazing guys work 12 13 hours a day, through the long Bank Holiday weekend to get the garden built. Then the planting team of six or so people come in 10 days later to plant. We are keen to get the garden more or less finished by Saturday 17th May in time for the first assessment by the judges on Sunday 18th May. In particular we want the plants to be able to relax into their new environment.
The first job was to build the two boundary walls before cladding them in steel and composite concrete. The cladding has all been fabricated by Gray Concrete which specialises in building structures in concrete they are also building the whole concrete installation at the new First World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum which will open later this Summer. This is now partially completed some of the concrete is still being carefully measured and attached to the 3m high walls. Next we had to lift/crane in all the trees and position them on the site.
This took a whole day as each tree had to be turned and adjusted to show the best side from all directions. This has now been successfully done though we do have one tree which is looking a bit sad after its journey and may present a problem. All our trees are really mature most around 35 years old so the combined age of our 8 feature trees is around 300 years old. Moving an old character like this can be tricky and they do often go into a sulk caused by the stress of being moved and manhandled. They will have to be given a great deal of TLC for the next two weeks to get them back on form. In particular our two Acer campestres (field maples) look amazing and have been greatly admired.
We have also started building our mine crater/water basin, building the trench and tunnel and forming the earth mound. The tunnel will not be accessible during the show but I could not resist climbing down into it to see how it feels as a space.
The earth mound is proving difficult because although we have made two scale models, it really has to be created by eye and formed by hand (and spade). However, now that it is partially formed, we are now really able to see the layout of the garden and get a feel for how it will look to the 150,000 or so people who visit the Chelsea Flower Show each year.
A new video has now been made about the inspiration behind the garden and the development of the design. It can be downloaded from either ABF The Soldiers Charity web site
or on Youtube.
Break of Day in the Trenches
The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.