The perfectly formed – Artisan gardens

Sandy Felton takes a look at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Artisan Gardens and finds plenty to delight and enjoy.

Always a big favourite with visitors to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the Artisan Gardens are the small and perfectly formed delights that await you tucked away in the calm of the Serpentine area of the Show.

This year, six gardens, of which three were awarded Gold medals, were all very different in style and planting and, as usual, are just delightful. Below we look at each of the gardens.

The Best in Show Artisan Garden was awarded to Family Monsters, (Gold) designed by Alistair Bayford to celebrate 150 years of Family Action, supporting families across the country. (pictured above) This delightful garden consisted of a birch and hazel coppice, creating a partial enclosure, shelter and refuge.

(above, designer Alistair Bayford with Sandy in the Family Monsters garden)

Planting at the lower levels of the coppice included Hydrangea quercifolia, Iris and some lovely native species to represent the diversity of our families. I sat in this garden during press day and felt so tranquil and calm – it is delightful.

The High Maintenance Garden for Motor Neurone Disease Association (pictured above) designed by Sue Hayward (Gold) illustrates an untended garden where nature is slowly taking over reflecting the limitations of a person with motor neurone disease. The iconic British hand-built sports car in the garage is of equal passion to the owner as the garden itself – the result of a lifetime of planning for an enjoyable and active retirement. There is a relaxed beauty about this garden and a certain nostalgia. The owner can still enjoy the garden’s sensory elements as it also becomes a haven for wildlife.

Chelsea would not be Chelsea without Mr Kazuyuki Ishihara and his beautiful Japanese designs. Green Switch – Gold – (pictured above) represents the space we inhabit when we switch off from the stresses of urban life – there is a shower in the garden and a tea room, in which I noticed a photo of the Beatles! Acer fans eat your heart out – this garden is full of the most exquisite examples, as well as Pionus sylvestris and Quercus suber underplanted with ferns, mosses and flowering Iris. Totally blows the mind in its perfection and beauty.

The Walkers Forgotten Quarry Garden (Silver-Gilt, pictured above) is fascinating. A disused quarry features redundant industrial elements such as an inspection tower, an aggregate conveyor and a digger! Nature is reclaiming the area and growing around these old machines creating a relaxed space. So much to see here from the textural foliage and small nature pond to the amazing inspection tower with its hanging lights.

Silver-Gilt also went to Miles Stone: The Kingston Maurward Garden designed by Michelle Brown celebrating 70 years of land-based education at Kingston Maurward College. This design is a delightful circular space with sawn pale limestone paving and natural dry and cropped walling stone typical of the heritage of landscaping in Dorset. We were particularly taken with Loropetalum chinensis ‘Ever Red’ used around the garden giving intense red colour against the paler planting. (You can see one in our picture above, at the front of the left-hand border).

The Donkey Sanctuary (Silver) designed by Christina Williams and Annie Prebensen is delightful. Set in an arid location, the garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean water for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. I particularly liked the planting on this garden set either side of a well-worn path, to depict the many journeys a donkey makes each day as they carry water for their communities.

I am always amazed at how much designers are able to put into these small Artisan Gardens that year after year continue to bring colour and delight as well as inspiration to Chelsea Show visitors. This year is no exception.

All photogaphs are strictly ©Reckless Gardener, Emma J Campbell Photography