Chelsea – The Modern Slavery Garden

Amongst the madness, beauty and razzmatazz of Chelsea this year, there was a garden with a powerful message. The Modern Slavery Garden, designed by Juliet Sargeant, the first female black designer in Chelsea’s 103 year history.

Modern Slavery Garden

Modern Slavery Garden

Behind the closed doors, a dark centre – charcoal floor, dark railings and door backs representing a hidden reality of men, women and children trapped in modern day slavery. The tall Oak planted within, symbolising the Oak Wilberforce stood under in 1788 with William Pitt discussing the campaign to abolish slavery.

The door numbers represent deeply moving statistics from the 2014 Global Slavery Index. Men, women and child human trafficking and forced labour. Sex slavery, debt bondage, domestic servitude, child marriage, organ harvesting, forced agriculture labour, factories and sweatshops, producing goods for global supply chains, even nail bar forced labour.

Modern Slavery Garden doors

Modern Slavery Garden doors

The small oak saplings at the base of the large Oak tree were grown by modern slavery survivors on an allotment run by the Medaille Trust, a Salvation Army partner, on a UK south coast allotment they use as part of their recuperation and recovery from their experiences of exploitation.

Modern Slavery Garden

Modern Slavery Garden

The open Oak doors and colourful planting represent freedom beyond the bleakness.

The UK Modern Slavery Act was passed last year, and from April 1st 2016 for the first time, companies with a turnover of more than £36m must declare what they are doing about slavery, within their companies and their supply chains – (Last year there was a successful prosecution of a bed company in Yorkshire using trafficked slave labour supplying several prestigious UK stores).

Modern Slavery Garden Planting

Modern Slavery Garden Planting

However, as yet there are no repercussions if companies choose not to publish these reports, its early days. Hopefully this legislation will be further tightened. As consumers we can challenge companies making huge profits from others bleak slave misery. A new campaign promoted by the Modern Slavery Garden to coincide with the first wave of disclosures in April 2016, gives power to the public to challenge the labour ethics of products and suppliers. Folk are encouraged to photograph the product with the hashtag #askthequestion via social media and publicly ask for answers.

Today, a few days after Chelsea closed the Global Slavery Index has released new 2016 figures, and reports a 10 million increase – 45.8 million men, women and children are modern slaves. 13,000 within the UK. Victims here are both vulnerable people in the UK and trafficked from overseas, forced to work illegally.

What kind of world is this?

Having been on the verge of giving up Chelsea visits, tired of hotel gardens and greenhouses the price of houses, its refreshing to see the RHS accept new challenging designs. Chelsea is eclectic and eccentric, filled with passion and excellence but so valid to find thought provoking emotive gardens too. Juliet won both a well deserved gold medal and the Peoples Choice in the Fresh category.

Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – A Crowded Affair

We visited Chelsea this year on a jam packed sunny Thursday. The earlier wind and rain of the first three days gave way to sunshine and by the time we arrived at 11a.m its fair to say the place was heaving. We made our way through some jolly trade stands, buying a few rusted plant supports en-route to the 8 Artisan Gardens. Finding little room just to stand and take any garden in or even walk from a to b we did a u-turn, had a cup of tea and listened to the band. Fortified we headed to the bottom of main avenue, to view some of the 15 large show gardens.

Dan Pearson's Chatsworth Garden

Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden and the footpath through

Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden was built on the Triangle, slightly away from other gardens and overlooked by the lofty media platform where Monty Don and Joe Swift delivered the nightly show. Pearson designed his brilliant, brilliant garden for folk to walk all the way around, there were no ropes except for a metre wide strip at the path entrance and exit, which traversed his garden, originally it was planned for all visitors to walk through the garden and view from the inside, health and safety put a stop to that and just a few selected guests were allowed on. There was even a bench for visitors to sit on. How inclusive!


Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden and the inviting seat

From the triangle we headed up main avenue first stopping at Sean Murray’s garden, the winner of ‘The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge’ TV programme. To highlight the RHS campaign to green our tarmaced and concreted over front gardens, Sean’s prize for winning the TV show was the opportunity to design the ‘Greening Grey Britain’ Chelsea garden.

Sean Murray signing autographs on his garden

Sean Murray signing autographs on his garden “Greening Grey Britain”

Of the 15 main gardens, we loved Prince Harry’s Hope In Vulnerability garden and it was voted the People’s Choice show garden. The garden was designed to raise awareness for Sentebale’s mission to tackle the stigma of HIV in adolescents, helping to provide access to care and education and providing psychosocial support. This was a garden that looked as if people lived there.

Hope In Vulnerability Sentebale Garden

Peoples Choice winning garden – Hope In Vulnerability Sentebale Garden

The planting style this year was wild even on the more formal gardens. I prefer wild at home but Chris Beardshaw’s style of planting on his ‘Healthy Cities Garden’ was truly beautiful. A wonderful selection of texture, form and colours.

Chris Beardshaw's 'Healthy Cities Garden'

Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities Garden’

After the show the Garden is being entirely relocated to Poplar in East London as a part of a community project. The Healthy Cities programme focuses on giving children a healthy start through a variety of initiatives.

And the garden loved most by Monty Don.

A Perfumer's Garden for  L'Occitane

A Perfumer’s Garden for

The Perfumer’s Garden was a short step away from the 9 Fresh gardens, rapidly becoming my favourite part of the show. Unlike the Artisan category, which is squeezed into an oppressive tunnel. (My suggestion if anyone with any clout reads this, is at the very least a one way system for the Artisan category or put all the swanky greenhouse trade stands down there). The Fresh Gardens like the Chatsworth garden can all be walked around. Our favourite the World Vision Garden.

World Vision Garden

World Vision Garden

This is another garden designed to raise awareness. World Vision is the worlds largest international children’s charity and the garden was inspired by Cambodian rice fields. The dark reflective water representing the fear of hunger that vulnerable children in Cambodia live with. Hope was symbolised by delicate violets. World Vision are asking folk to be involved and on Friday July 10th wear something floral as a fundraiser.

The People’s Choice Fresh garden winner was awarded to the beautifully planted ‘The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden’

People Choice Fresh garden the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden

People Choice Fresh garden
the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden

We dipped in and out of the the Floral Marquee now named the Great Pavilion, its a whopping 12,000m, which according to the Telegraph is the same size as two football pitches and enough room to park 500 London buses. There are around 100 exhibits and the smell is wonderful. We had watched the interview on TV before coming with the young couple in their 20’s Laura Crowe and Jack Willgoss at their first Chelsea and exhibiting perennial Violas. Having met when they were training in Horticulture at RHS Wisley they are now fulfilling their dream and run Wildegoose Nursery They won a silver-gilt, not bad for their first time!

Wildegoose Nursery Perennial Violas

Wildegoose Nursery Perennial Violas

We then made our way back to the Artisan gardens for the third time, the second time the one garden causing the major traffic jam was still surrounded by people. But at 7.45p.m just before the show was closing I finally managed to see the Japanese Garden.

Kazuyuki Ishihara Japanese Garden

Kazuyuki Ishihara Japanese Garden

This year Kazuyuki Ishihara was awarded his 7th Chelsea Gold Medal. Piped to the post for People’s choice Artisan garden was the Breast Cancer Haven Garden, my photograph does not do it justice. So I am showing you another garden in The Artisan category instead.

A Trugmakers Garden

A Trugmakers Garden

Of course we would go again, I love the razzmatazz of the show gardens and especially enjoy seeing the wonderful plants inside the Great Pavillion, but the crowds are something else. In 2004 Chelsea was extended from 4 days to 5, maybe just one extra day to spread the crowds out would be good.

RHS Chelsea 2014 – Talking Points

RNIB Minds Eye Garden

Fresh garden – RNIB Minds Eye Garden

We visited Chelsea last wednesday, having dithered over the ticket order we were only able to purchase an afternoon ticket. Its worth buying the kings ransom all day ticket though as there is so much to see and negotiating crowds takes time.

The Fresh gardens, were better presented this year, still located on the far side but in their own area, rather than stuffed in amongst trade stands. The 10 very individual Fresh gardens were the gems of the show. RHS blurb…”we are challenging designers to be brave and step outside the perceived Chelsea garden”.

I wear glasses and have done since a child, my sight is my most important sense, each year the prescription is strengthened and now varifocals. The RNIB Minds Eye Garden was a sensory experience, designed to stimulate ones imagination or minds eye, the point being that non sighted or partially sighted could enjoy this garden too. Centred around a glass box with water running down the sides, standing inside the box, the view for a fully sighted person was blurred. The fabulous planting became a muddle. Enclosed in the stands goodie bag a glasses shaped cloudy dark spotted piece of plastic, looking through gave an idea of what it would be like to have diabetes affected sight.

RNIB Minds Eye  Iris 'Kent Pride'

RNIB Minds Eye
Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (My favourite plant of the show)

The Garden Museum sponsored the ‘Cave Pavilion’

'Cave Pavilion' in partnership with the Garden Museum

‘Cave Pavilion’ in partnership with the Garden Museum

Look closely and the planting is contained within a large industrial container with only one viewing point and bench to sit and look. The plants were all collected by modern day plant hunters Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones of Crug Farm Plants. The plants are all wild origin and used in their natural uncultivated form. The blurb says this raises ideas of exploration, discovery and imagination and yes it filled the brief – Brilliant.

Oak Processionary Moth Garden

Oak Processionary Moth Garden

A garden with an important biosecurity message, the oak trees at one end of the garden were wrapped in fabric to symbolise the the impact of this devastating moth. Its native to mainland Europe and was imported accidentally into the UK in 2006, caterpillars strip the tree bare leaving the Oak vulnerable to other pests and diseases and less able to withstand extreme weather. Why are we still importing Oak trees, any trees for that matter.

Reachout garden

Reachout garden

The Reachout garden was inspired by young people in Lancashire and depicts a girl leaning against a slate wall and the journey faced by young people on the way to adulthood. I really, really like these symbolic gardens with thought and purpose.

Gaura 'Freefolk Rosy' Shortlisted for RHS Plant of the Year from Hardys

Gaura ‘Freefolk Rosy’
Shortlisted in the top 20 for RHS Plant of the Year from Hardys

The great Pavillion hosts a brilliant selection of nurseries from the UK and across the world, amongst the displays the RHS Plant of the Year 2014 top 20. The Gaura did not win but would of been my choice.

Artisan gardens, 7 this year, the RHS blurb…”Designers are challenged to use an artisan approach”

Tour de Yorkshire garden

Tour de Yorkshire garden

My husband a very keen cyclist, me less good, in fact rubbish at speedy cycling, but we both loved the Tour de Yorkshire garden. The tour de France is kicking off in Yorkshire this year, hence the link. The beautiful York stone wall incorporated recycled bike wheels.

The Best in Show Artisan garden Togenkyo (A Paradise on Earth) was beyond exceptional in its execution, the attention to detail staggeringly good. My only comment, someone had booked a rockabilly band to play in the adjoining food court area, the volume control knob was missing and a sound so out of context to this stunning garden ensued. I am very sure the designer Kazuyuki Ishihara did not like the music either.

Togenkyo (A Paradise on earth) Best in Show Artisan garden

Togenkyo (A Paradise on earth) Best in Show Artisan garden

My favourite garden – the Potters garden, depicting a pottery, where the workers went off to the first world war and thankfully all survived, coming back to resume their work in the Pottery. This was one of three gardens at Chelsea this year reflecting war.

The Potters Garden

The Potters Garden

Aquilegia 'Green Apples' on the Artisan category Norse Garden

Aquilegia ‘Green Apples’ on the Artisan category Norse Garden

I understand Mr Titchmarsh now retired from presenting Chelsea came into a bit of flak for the safeness of his garden. It was jolly, I liked it. Bringing attention to the RHS Britain in Bloom initiative and isn’t that about being jolly, being inspired and bringing a bit of cheer to some of our dingier landscapes.

Alan Titchmarsh Britain in Bloom garden

Celebrating 50 years in horticulture for Alan Titchmarsh and Kate Gould’s Britain in Bloom garden

The Show gardens, 15 this year, including one, the Cape Cod garden, which I could not find at all. A free map would be handy thrown in with the very pricey ticket.

Asphodeline lutea, Centurea ‘Black Ball’,  Cerinthe purpurescens, Cleve West Contemporary Paradise Garden

Asphodeline lutea, Centurea ‘Black Ball’, Cerinthe purpurescens, Cleve West Contemporary Paradise Garden

Laurent Perrier Garden - best in show

Laurent Perrier Garden – best in show

Can anyone identify this for me, on the very beautiful Laurent Perrier Garden, but missing from the plant list.

P.S. This afternoon (28.5.14) Neil from Avon Bulbs contacted me and identified this really beautiful plant for me, he could because they grew these for the Laurent Perrier garden, its Gladiolus tristis and available to order. I had not appreciated that its also wonderfully scented in the evenings.

Phlox divaricata, Orlaya Grandiflora, Lupinus Cashmere Cream, Deschampsia flexuosa Laurent Perrier Gold and Best in show

Phlox divaricata, Orlaya Grandiflora, Lupinus Cashmere Cream, Deschampsia flexuosa
Laurent Perrier Gold and Best in show

I loved the planting on the laurent Perrier garden, I have tried to grow Lupins and the wonderfully scented Phlox divaricata, both need more shelter than I can offer, I am growing the hardy annual Orlaya grandiflora for the first time this year, with seed I bought at Chelsea last year from Hardys. I have high hopes.

Orlaya grandiflora

Orlaya grandiflora

Our afternoon ticket only gave us 4.5 hours, not enough time to visit the greatest flower show on earth. And now no more time to blog, I have potting up to do. One last thought, I miss Diarmuid Gavin and his crazy outrageous but above all memorable gardens, there were many large very tasteful show gardens this year that in looking through 500 odd photos I can’t assign to any particular one with ease.

Up close and personal Chelsea Flower Show 2013


Christopher Bradley-Hole’s gorgeous Telegraph garden

A visit to Chelsea this year fell on a very cold Thursday, where the forecast was heavy rain at one, so we left home quite early and were through the gates by 9.00a.m. The grounds were already filled with people and getting anywhere near a main show garden took a bit of patience. In the nicest possible way, the first few gardens although beautiful would be perfect in the grounds of an upmarket hotel. But its personal and appreciating plants and gardens is about how they reach out and touch a part of your soul.

The beautiful Iris ‘Sugar Magnolia’ planted on Ulf Nordfjell’s Laurent-Perrier garden, available from Crocus.

Iris 'Sugar Magnolia'

Iris ‘Sugar Magnolia’

The Orlaya grandiflora on Prince Harry’s garden was my “I want that” plant of the day. Later I was thrilled to find the seed available on Hardy Plants gold medal stand inside the marquee.

Orlaya grandiflora

Orlaya grandiflora

Then the Homebase garden, ‘Sowing the Seed of Change’ yes this is for everybody, a lovely mix of edibles and affordable planting stylishly put together and designed by Adam Frost.

Aquilegia - columbine

Aquilegia – columbine

Homebase 'Sowing the Seeds of Change' garden

Homebase ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ garden

We headed to Flemings Australian garden and absolutely loved the planting and concept, brilliantly designed by Phillip Johnson. Last year, in the same space was Diarmuid Gavin’s seven storey high sustainable garden and beside that the Korean garden and my favourite, Chris Beardshaw’s  ‘The Furzey Garden’. The Australian garden, was on its own this year, replacing last years three gardens (is this corner for the non conventional?) apparently a little controversial that it took best in show, but to our untrained eyes, it was head and shoulders the main show garden winner. We queued to view and joyfully shuffled at a snails pace along the roped off garden. Expecting to see burnt browns and oranges, the garden was filled with lush greens, pinks, reds, mauves, greys, silver and gorgeous use of yellow and not one lovely delicate Cow Parsley relative in sight. This was a garden that made me engage and want to find out more not just about the plants but the country they originally grew in too.

Flemings Australian Garden designed by Phillip Johnson

Flemings Australian Garden
designed by Phillip Johnson

Ptilotus exaltatus

Ptilotus exaltatus

That could not be said of any of the other main show gardens this year. I think this is what I want more than anything from a show garden – a show. I want to be drawn in to find out more – Chelsea is a pricey ticket, when I get there, having arrived  on a crowded train and the jostle is so dense I cannot stand back on my own to admire a garden, I want to be entertained and excited and absolutely most of all educated by something new.

Bracteantha bracteata – paper daisy wildflower

Le Jardin de Yorkshire

Le Jardin de Yorkshire

On to the Artisan gardens, all of them beautiful in their individual way, 8 gardens all different and hard to choose a favourite. Each entertained, engaged and educated me, leaving me wanting to explore and find out more about the different countries and regions or causes they represented.  The very high standard of concept, design and planting of these tiny gardens, made viewing each one an absolute delight.

Lady's Slipper Orchid  Cypripedium calceolus

Yorkshire Garden Lady’s Slipper Orchid
Cypripedium calceolus

Planting on the Yorkshire garden, included a rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

Inspired by the footpath in the The National Botanic Gardens of Wales ‘Get Well Soon’ garden, designed to be walked on barefoot, stimulating reflexology pressure points.

Get Well Soon footpath

Get Well Soon footpath

and Un Garreg, One Stone, inspired by the Breacon Beacons, had the most beautiful planting, both peaceful and moving.

Un Garreg - Crafted from One Stone

Un Garreg – Crafted from One Stone


Un Garreg


Un Garreg – Aquilegia


Un Garreg – Astrantia


Un Garreg – Verbascum

Un Garreg planting

Un Garreg

Then off to the Grand Marquee and finally the Fresh Gardens, I am not sure why the division in allocated space between Fresh and Artisan, as amongst the trade stands the Fresh gardens felt slightly second class, within the show layout. Shouldn’t new ideas be embraced more warmly?

Digital Capabilities planting

Digital Capabilities planting

Then with an hour left before our train home, we revisited the Artisan gardens, and the main shopping avenue with Franchi’s Seeds still crowded with delighted customers. We really enjoyed our day and left in admiration of those who put a show on in the face of some really challenging 2013 English Spring weather. Chelsea is not for everybody, but horticulture is diverse, thankfully. At a time when funds are being raised by the RHS to encourage the young into a gardening life, here at least are some of the aspirational plants, gardens and products, which showcase the diversity horticulture has to offer and hopefully be enticing enough to encourage younger gardeners to make horticulture a way of earning a living.

My top two Chelsea Flower Show Gardens ever


I am a sporadic Chelsea visitor, sometimes preferring the space, freedom and elbow room of Hampton Court, sometimes neither and watch from the comfort of my home. But every time I have visited I’ve kept the lovely leaflets from gardens that move or inspire me the most.

In my own tribute to the centenary year, I’ve tried to recall every show garden ever visited and two stand out for me, head and shoulders above the rest, but for different reasons.

The Daily Express’ ‘The Lull after the Storm’ Chelsea 1990 and Julie Toll’s ‘The Edible Garden’ Chelsea 1994.

“The Lull after the Storm” from the 1990 Chelsea Flower show, was magical, I kept running (early in the day) or politely attempting to get through the crowds to re visit. Inspired by The Great Storm of 1988, Jane Cordingley had been placed 1st in the Daily Express garden design competition. Based on her design, with contributions from the second and third placed entries, Van Hage constructed and planted.

The garden was a gem of natural planting amidst the fallen trees. I hadn’t seen a show garden like this before, it was quite moving to view from my allotted shuffling spot. Long grass and wildflowers, ferns and a boggy area, a large pond, log paths, all woven around trees that had fallen in the great storm. My overriding memory is the long grass, and thinking yes! This is what a garden should be, free and wild.  Not constrained and uptight. Back in 1990, there really did not seem to be anything like this gorgeous and regenerating natural garden.

Four years later, I came across my other all time favourite garden; as a new mum of two children under two we had taken on an allotment, about a miles drive away. It was disastrous. Very young children want freedom and attention at the same time, not an absent-minded earth mother trying to sow, hoe, weed, dig, water, look jolly. We gave it up the day my youngest marched over to our car and bashed the bonnet with a metal children’s rake lovingly bought so that she could join in the allotment fun, clearly she wanted some of her parents time.

So welcome was the sight of Julie Toll’s ‘The Edible Garden’, in aid of St John’s Ambulance, we viewed and viewed, at each end of the moving shuffle we went back to the beginning again, making lots of notes of what we could take from Julie’s ideas. It was so inspiring and exactly what I wanted from any garden I have ever owned or would go on to own in the future. Borders were beautifully filled with wildflowers, herbs and fruits of all kinds, vegetables, native trees, shrubs and flowers. Brick scooterable paths linked each area and the centre a tapestry lawn, perfect for children to roll about in and collect daisies. A wonderfully planned and designed garden that could be translated and achieved by many and was the perfect solution for my young family. If the Peoples Garden award had existed then this would have been the absolute outright winner.