This year we had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to build a show garden at one of the UK’s most prestigious flower shows. The Wedgwood Garden was designed by Jamie Butterworth and built by Keyscape Design and Construction. We’ve put the RHS Chatsworth Show Garden Diaries together so you can see what goes on behind the scenes at a build.
How Do You Build A Garden?
More specifically how do you go about building a show garden that’s going to be visited by thousands and seen by millions on national TV? The answer is a lot of preparation and a great team. In the last diary entry we explored the level of research that goes into designing an award winning garden. Taking these designs and turning them into a real life, living garden is an extraordinary undertaking but the Wedgwood team were up to the task!
Adapting To The Conditions
RHS Shows are held in the same place each year meaning that designers often have to work around the same restrictions each time. At RHS Chatsworth designers are allocated spaces by the show team to minimise damage to the ground caused by reoccurring use.
Because this is a historic house the show team has to be careful that any building work doesn’t damage any archaeology on site. Construction teams also had to bear in mind that they were really close to the river that flows through the famous Chatsworth estate.
The team started marking out the space almost a month before the show opened. At this stage they had to adapt their plans slightly to protect some buried drainage works. They started to plan out where the foundations were going in and how they were going to get materials on to site.
Building Strong Foundations
The Wedgwood Garden filled a huge space, measuring around 150 square metres. To fill the space designer Jamie Butterworth incorporated some large pieces of construction. This included the sunken seating area; the rectangular pond; a large red brick wall and raised planting beds. Additionally the garden contained large trees that needed to be supported for the short period of time they were in the ground.
To be able to support the large amount of built features, the team needed to ensure that the garden had strong foundations. It’s really important that the garden exudes a sense of permanence and professional build quality in the show. In addition to this it needs to be safe to use, demonstrate good building practice and show a variety of heights to inspire visitors.
So Many Plants!
Plants used in show gardens are often specially grown. The Wedgwood Garden was no exception and Jamie had decided on including some plants before the designs had even begun. He’d seen the purposefully grown purple beech domes during his time working at Hortus Loci. These were placed at the centre of the garden and really caught your eye as you moved from the seating area to the water feature.
Hundreds of plants were selected and grown for the garden and it took the team about 4/5 days to put them all in.
Finishing The Hard Landscaping
The hard landscaping was put in at different stages along the build. The bases of the back wall, sunken seating space and pond bed were crafted in the initial phase of the build. The raised beds, Londonstone Britannia Buff Yorkstone steps and copings and the Vande Moortel red and grey/blue bricks were added next.
And finally, once the planting, oak benches and steel bridging had been set up, the Goldpath Self Binding Gravel was added. The gravel was added last to stop mud and debris being accidentally dropped onto it and combined with its self-binding surface.
Find Out More
You can find out more about RHS Judging and the final days of the build in our RHS Chatsworth Show Garden Diaries here.
Want to know more about the design of the garden? Check out the first installment of the Show Garden Diaries: The Design here.
We’ve written the RHS Chatsworth Show Garden Diaries to help you understand the background and incredible effort that goes into creating inspiring and outstanding show gardens. All credit goes to the designer Jamie Butterworth; build team Keyscape Design & Construction; planting team Butterworth Hort and Hortus Loci and the main sponsors, Wedgwood.
Looking for ideas from the garden? Take a look at our Ideas and Inspiration from Wedgwood blog post here.