Commemorating Wellington at RHS Chelsea

Banner,Living-Legacy-Design--Image-1The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo will be commemorated at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with a show garden inspired by Wellington’s victory and the general’s living legacy – Wellington College.

‘The Living Legacy Garden’, Designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of Wilson McWilliam Studio, progresses from the bleakness and brutality of the Battle of Waterloo, through the greening and flowering of the landscape towards a representation of the iconic architecture of Wellington College, the memorial to the Duke of Wellington.

The garden is sponsored by Darwin Property Investment Management and is one of the major show gardens at this year’s show.

The Battle of Waterloo propelled Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, into hero status at home and on the continent. It brought to an end 23 years of war in Europe and it is hoped that the show garden will remind today’s generation of the huge significance the Battle had in shaping Britain as we now know it.

After the Duke of Wellington’s death, Wellington College was set up as a national memorial, initially to provide an education for orphans of fallen soldiers. Today, Wellington College is one of the most successful educational establishments in the world.

Elements of the garden are inspired by the landscape and terrain of Waterloo, which Wellington used to his advantage, along with the battle formations that successfully repelled the attack, the regimental colours of the British and Allied troops and the eight aptitudes central to the teaching of the College. There will also be personal carvings from current pupils and alumni.

A lower section of the garden is blackened earth and gravel, erupting in a confusion of distressed slender steel poles that seem to evaporate into the air – a lone figure will stand looking forward from the turmoil, partially hidden by the rising ground and the willow foliage – Wellington was famous for hiding or partially obscuring his troops.


Simple meadow or grassland covers the rise and will cantilever partially over the battle zone, suggestive of layers of history away to reveal the scene. A rill paved with Belgian setts slices between the slopes echoing the sunken but paved road Wellington exploited in the battle.

Planting is ordered by squares of clipped beech through which the various uniforms and flags will be represented in flower colours.

Pleached squares of beech – a native tree to the Waterloo area – partially enclose the garden and provide screening but also a sense of repetition found in the colonnades of the various Wellington College quadrangles.

A sunken terrace will provide a base for the walls of red brick and Bath stone that typify the architecture of the school and a gate, partially open, offers a welcoming gesture to those who come to the school.

The Living Legacy garden will be replanted in the grounds of Wellington College after the show, ensuring that this new memorial flourishes for future generations to enjoy.

Wilson McWilliam Studio is one of the country’s leading garden design practices, combining the talents of Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam, who are renowned for producing imaginative, uplifting and carefully tailored designs. This will be the third year in a row that the duo have designed a garden for RHS Chelsea, having previously won two Silver Gilt medals for their gardens with Cloudy Bay. Andrew and Gavin were also recently awarded a Gold medal and named Best in Show at the Singapore Garden Festival.

Award winning landscape company, Outdoor Options, led by Brian Herbert, will work on the garden supported by Horticolous, the garden design team of Mark Lippiatt and Lynn Riches. Brian and his team are no strangers to Chelsea having constructed a number of gardens achieving two Silver-Gilt and two Gold medals including Gold for the 2014 ‘No Man’s Land’. Mark and Lynn will be working at Chelsea for the first time.

Plants will be supplied by Hortus Loci, who supplied plants for four award winning gardens at the show last year.

Wellington College was established in 1853 as the nation’s memorial to the Duke of Wellington. Located in Berkshire, the College has adopted a pioneering, global and independent approach to what they teach. Students from Wellington College’s own television station, WTV, will be filming the development of the garden, from the growth of the plants at the Hortus Loci nursery to behind the scenes access during the build and launch of the garden on RHS Chelsea Flower Show Press day.

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