Pocket Park Garden for RHS Chelsea

‘The M&G Garden’, designed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg of Harris Bugg Studio, for the September 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, is about transforming neglected, unloved areas into new, tranquil and beautiful green spaces in the places we need them most – our towns and cities.

The garden provides respite from a hectic, urban world and brings new life and purpose to a long-neglected corner of a city. Unusual for Chelsea, the garden is a shared, community space imagined in an urban setting and challenges our usual notions of what a garden can be.

The garden features plants and trees chosen for their tolerance to urban climate extremes of wet winters and hot summers. These will be interspersed with unusual and delicate planting to inject moments of ephemeral beauty.

The wild and naturalistic shapes and silvery leaves of Hippophae or sea buckthorn will feature, with bursts of colour from Nyssa sylvatica or black gum tree. As well as reclaimed materials, tactile natural features will provide added connection to the natural world with water in the form of a naturalistic pool, surrounded by marginal planting – aiding run-off and flood prevention and helping to encourage and support wildlife.

Both Charlotte and Hugo are no strangers to RHS Chelsea, having both won individual Gold medals for Main Avenue gardens at previous shows, however, this is their first Chelsea show garden together. They originally designed the M&G Garden prior to the coronavirus pandemic to explore how more shared gardens and green spaces could be injected into our towns and cities. Now, following the pandemic, the garden’s potential impact as a vital lifeline is even more relevant, fulfilling an innate need to connect with nature.

Co-designer Charlotte comments: “Our garden is about creating beautiful, essential green spaces in the places we need them most. It is also about challenging what people think a garden should be, especially in built-up towns and cities. We believe there is no place too small, too unloved, or too battered that cannot be transformed into a powerful and restorative green space.”

Co-designer Hugo comments that the garden represents a place of refuge to escape the intensity of a busy urban life: “A place where pools of sunshine and dappled shade allow people and wildlife to be revived. By creating green corridors in our cities we make them better places to be. It is no longer enough for green spaces to be ‘nice to haves’ – they are as fundamental in our urban infrastructure as transport, power and water.

(Charlotte & Hugo pictured at RHS Bridgewater)

Both designers (pictured above) are known for making gardens tell stories that reflect the spirit of place and have imagined an industrial past for the garden showing how found materials and unloved remnants can be transformed into something extraordinary and authentic. Wherever possible the materials used are reclaimed and re-used, including a sculpture of over 100 linear metres of repurposed metal pipes that encourage people to explore all the hidden corners of the space.

The sculpture has been designed in collaboration with design studio Mcmullan Studio, and will take visitors on a journey, framing views and defining different zones.

Andrew Mcmullan, of Mcmullan Design Studio, speaking about the collaboration, points out that the concrete jungle keeps expanding and that by 2035, 2 billion more people will live in cities: “Green spaces are pivotal to modern city life, healthier, happier and more sustainable. This collaboration shows how important it is for landscape and buildings to be designed holistically. You can’t refit harmony,” says Andrew.

The dramatic garden visual (pictured banner above) was produced by Christian Tate who was charged by Charlotte and Hugo to channel the feel of the Grosvenor School who captured the spirit of the British interwar period with their celebration of the energy and experience of city life.

The Harris Bugg Studio is an award-winning landscape design practice located in the UK and Europe encompassing high-end residential, public, historic and commercial spaces. Between them, the duo hold four Gold medals, two Silver Guilts and Best in Show at RHS Shows and a Landscape Institute award for their pocket park in Vauxhall, London.

One of their current projects includes the redesign of the historic walled kitchen garden at RHS Bridgewater and the planting of an urban forest on a rooftop in London.

They have been named “pioneering design talents of their generation” by the Royal Horticultural Society and their practice is consistently listed in Country Life Magazine’s Best Garden and Landscape Design Practices in Britain 2018-2021.

This is the 11th year that garden sponsors M&G have also been title sponsor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and its third year as sponsor of the RHS’s Greening Great Britain scheme to support communities. They will be working once again with Crocus, the award-winning nursery.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from the 21st to 26th September 2021 – for information please visit: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show

Garden image: ©Harris-Bugg Studio; Image of Charlotte & Hugo ©RHS credit Mark Waugh