Main Avenue beckons for Garden Designer Kate Gould

Sandy Felton talks to Kate Gould, award-winning garden designer as she prepares for her 10th Chelsea garden and her debut on Main Avenue.

RHS Chelsea no doubt feels like a second home to garden designer Kate Gould as she prepares to build her 10th Show Garden at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, for The Greenfingers Charity.

Kate is honoured and delighted to be working with Greenfingers on the largest garden she has ever built at Chelsea (that will be judged), with the added prestige that the garden will see her debut on Main Avenue. The Greenfingers Charity Garden will be highlighting the therapeutic benefits of outdoor spaces as well as raising awareness of the Charity’s work, which has seen them build 55 children’s hospice gardens throughout the UK.

Clearly no stranger to Chelsea, I asked Kate (pictured left) what she felt was special about designing a garden at the famous Show: “Chelsea is simply the greatest flower show on earth and there is no place like it to build,” she says. “Small, complicated, incredibly busy, highly strung but still the best place to spend May.”

Kate has designed a lush green split-level garden, providing a peaceful, interactive and uplifting space where life-limited children with complex needs and their families and friends, can come together for play, relaxation or peaceful reflection. One of the innovations on the garden will be a lift powered by water and solar panels, making the installation fully sustainable. I am sure that this will be just one aspect of the garden that will certainly draw attention from Chelsea visitors. Kate will be using the expertise of Matthew Lloyd who is keen to see the lift become a reality at the Show.

She had to consider step free access to the garden as it is designed for life-limited children and so the “slightly bonkers” idea of a water lift came to the fore: “We are working through the design of the lift which will hopefully be powered by water and catch the children’s imagination when they are inside it,” Kate explains. “As with any bespoke engineered item at Chelsea, there is a huge amount to work through in a short space of time and sometimes the best laid plans are dashed at the last hurdle.” In this case Kate, we hope that the magical water lift idea gets off to a flying start.

I asked Kate if there was any particular aspect of the design process that she enjoyed most: “Getting the design on paper is the easy part,” she says. “The most enjoyable bit of the process is working through the how’s and why’s with the team where everybody contributes and pitches in to bring the scheme to life,” she adds.

She points out that clearly it is important for a designer to do their best for a sponsor, especially a charity like Greenfingers, where the garden will hopefully generate a huge amount of interest: “We want to raise the profile of the Charity because this will allow them to build more and more gardens within children’s hospices. The garden would not be possible without the support of a private anonymous donor, so it really is a privilege to be designing it.

pictured above – Kate’s 2018 RHS Chelsea Garden ‘The New West End Garden’ (Gold)

Asked how she came into garden design as a profession, Kate points out that she had always gardened and still did so with her mum but admits that she pretty much stumbled into the industry: “Luckily, I ended up loving what I do. My tutor Wendy encouraged me to apply for Chelsea for the first time, neither of us knowing that I would become an addict. The process of learning to design at Chelsea has really helped me design small spaces,” she says.

For Kate, the thrill of designing a garden never wanes: “Each space poses its own challenges,” she points out. “You need to work through those challenges sometimes over a period of years in conjunction with clients and the relationship you forge with them always makes the finished garden entirely individual to them.”

May 2019 will see the launch of Kate’s new book ‘Urban Garden Design’ – another first after she was approached by a publisher to write a book to add to their collection of gardening titles: “The process was a massive learning curve which I enjoyed,” she said. “Being able to have a hand in all stages meant I learnt a huge amount about a totally new world. It was a complete labour of love and I really hope people are enthused by the prospect of creating a small urban garden with all the joy it can bring.” The book acts as a guide on how to design your own outdoor space and Kate hopes that it does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’ and helps readers improve their gardens no matter how small.

I have the feeling that the Greenfingers Charity Garden is going to be a talking point at this year’s RHS Chelsea, with its split-level design and water lift, providing a special space for life-limited children as well as an accessible space for people of all ages and abilities.

Kate has won five Gold Medals and three ‘best in category’ awards for her designs at Chelsea and you can find out more about her work and design practice at:

Greenfingers is a national charity dedicated to supporting life-limited children and their families who spend time in hospices around the UK. You can find out more about their work at:

Thanks to Kate for taking time out of her busy schedule and preparations for RHS Chelsea for this interview, we wish her and the team every success and look forward to seeing this imaginative and important garden on Main Avenue.

Picture credits: Garden design image and image of Kate ©Kate Gould; New West End Garden, Chelsea 2018: ©Recklessgardener