Flower Show gets ‘Fresh’

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show gets ‘Fresh’ with Cloudy Bay’s Rough Luxe Style by Wilson McWilliam Studio
Andrew Wilson is no stranger to the Chelsea Flower Show in his capacity as an RHS Show Garden Judge but it has been 18 years since he last laid his own talents on the line and produced a show garden. With his design practice partner Gavin McWilliam, they have planned a ‘Fresh’ garden for partner Cloudy Bay that will definitely pull the crowds off Main Avenue and onto Royal Hospital Way!
The Cloudy Bay ‘Discovery Garden’ – much like the vineyard at the heart of its inspiration – will be crisp, contemporary and clean. It will appear simple and relaxed but the hard landscaping features in particular require sophisticated levels of engineering in order to appear effortless. The planting of course will be subtle and sublime, essentially a green palette but with some strong colours percolated throughout the scheme.
Cloudy Bay produces award winning wines in the South Island of New Zealand, specifically the Marlborough region and the garden seeks to draw reference from this stunning landscape. Wine making is all about ‘terroir’ and The Wairau River is referenced by a stream that runs diagonally through the 6m x 12m garden and the rich soil of the region is alluded to with the rammed earth walls. The vineyard landscape is a weave of horizontal and vertical lines and these are represented by the metal rods holding up a very contemporary inspired canopy structure beneath which garden visitors can relax and enjoy a glass of wine whilst listening to the water that flows below. The canopied pavilion and paving will appear to be floating over the water.
The garden hints at a New Zealand landscape but essentially is a British garden with all plants suited to the UK climate. Rust and purple bearded Iris will create impact against the pale polished concrete finish of the canopy and the distressed copper uprights. Scottish sourced gabbro boulders are intended as a nod to a well known grey NZ stone synonymous with the region.
UK natives are sprinkled through the planting and there are one or two special treats woven into the garden scheme. Andrew managed to track down Berberis temolaica, a rugged native of Tibet, suited to the themes and gravelled character of the garden and one the designers do not believe has been seen at Chelsea before.
New Zealand native Corokia is represented in the form ‘Frosted Chocolate’ – a fabulous wirey evergreen plant, that sports glossy bronze rounded leaves with yellow flowers and berries relished by birds. Alongside the Corokia is the architectural Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, a clump-forming perennial species with light green to purplish green basal leaves 30-75cm long, purple stems and compact racemes of long of purple-tinted, off-white flowers. Pachystegia insignis, (Marlborough rock daisy) is a low evergreen shrub native to the Marlborough region that will be threaded through the gravel and rocky outcrops showing its densely felted leaves. Other grasses and reeds will provide finer textures and foliage movement alongside the stream.
Andrew and Gavin like to challenge design thinking and see exciting qualities in both familiar and unfamiliar forms and materials. This is apparent in their selection of three wonderful rescued apple trees whose gnarled and twisted beauty will stretch across the garden in contrast with the elegant poles and floating canopy. Loose and organic buxus forms replicate this textural interest at key locations within the wider planting scheme, counterpoints to the finer grasses and colourful perennials.
This garden will be interesting throughout the seasons and will take on a different aspect in the evening when the lighting scheme designed by lighting designer of the year Michael Grubb, of the Michael Grubb Studio creates a unique and theatrical ambience.

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