Create a show garden for The Chelsea Flower Show 2000 - Oh, and by the way, you've only got 10 weeks! This was the scenario I faced early last year. Thankfully I survived and was awarded a top Royal Horticultural Society medal.
My design had elegant, minimalist appeal like traditional Japanese gardens, with added colour for interest. I wanted a practical design that would be easy to achieve anywhere. The garden was to be entitled, Zen Inspired. The finished garden may look calm and peaceful, but you wouldn't believe the amount of effort involved. Everything had to look its best for the eagle eyes of the judges and millions of television viewers around the world.
THE COUNT DOWN
I had to ration myself to just four hours sleep a night, for eight weeks so I could travel all over England selecting the finest specimens. It is vital to check on the quality and condition of plants that you are considering. They must be at their peak for those few days in the fourth week of May. As you can imagine, our English climate can make this very tricky!
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Even selecting rocks proved difficult. They had to look just right as I was going to use 10 tons! Hundreds of miles were covered to look at mosses. Initially I had intended to use it as ground cover but eventually I decided that 'Mind Your Own Business' was a better choice for planting in drifts around the rocks. The way its tiny green leaves crept between the rocks gave the garden a really natural look.
AT THE SHOW GROUND
It is an amazing experience working against the clock, in such a confined space, with everyone else around you doing the same. I had designed a large Zen style pergola to the rear of the garden. This was made from fine English oak. The whole structure was pegged together without the use of screws or nails - Just as it would have been done hundreds of years a go.
My allocated plot had an existing Horsechestnut tree, which I knew would be in full bloom around show time. Because of this I used a simple pink and white colour scheme for planting. This meant that any falling blossom from the tree would blend in nicely. Two magnificent 50 year-old bonsai Scots pine trees were positioned either side of the pergola, providing just the sculptural quality I needed.
WHY NOT MAKE YOUR GARDEN ZEN INSPIRED?
This minimalist style would suit anyone wanting a low-maintenance garden. Whether you are gardening on a grand scale or have a tiny plot, you would be able to adapt this design to create that flavour of the East, Zen Inspired.