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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Q&A – Main Avenue – The M&G Garden

Award-winning garden designer James Basson has been commissioned by title sponsor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, M&G, to create a garden which takes inspiration from the Mediterranean landscape of Malta, inspired by the principles of ecological sustainability. The plants are supplied by The Gaia Foundation in Malta, Piante Faro in Sicily, Cian Cavare in Imperia, Olivier Filippi and Gaudissart in France, then Crocus, Kelways and Jekka McVicar in the UK.

Q&A with the garden designer, James Basson:

When did you first start working on the original design and how long did it take to perfect?

We first starting working on the design straight after Chelsea 2015 and have honed it over the last 18 months to meet with structural engineering recommendations, health & safety considerations and site restrictions. We’ve been lucky to have this length of time to be able to collect seeds from Malta and grow plants on and seek permission from the Maltese authorities to bring some endemic species to London for the purposes of the show, which we’re really excited about.

What are the stand out features of this particular garden?

The two massive pillars (one 8m and one 5m) would have to be the stand out features, planting the tops of them is going to be fun! We also have two wonderful specimen trees Ceratonia siliqua (Carob) and Pistacia lentiscus that we were very lucky to find.

Did the sponsor provide a detailed brief? If so, how did you interpret this within your design?

Again we’ve been very lucky that M&G took the design on board and let us go with it. They gave us no brief which has meant that the final design is our initial vision so fingers crossed.

What is so special about having a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?

The atmosphere is incredible, and the chance to compete on a world stage. Being judged by and against your peers is a worthwhile experience and allows you to grow. Working with the cream of construction teams, gardeners and plant growers and nurserymen and women. It also gives us the chance to design a garden that breaks the mould of our everyday work and be creative on a different level.

How do you hope the public/visitors will perceive this garden?

I think people will be surprised as there is a lot of stone, but hopefully the message that by taking an extremely mineral ‘hard’ manmade space and working with nature to make it beautiful we can persuade people that all those urban spaces we don’t know what to do with can in turn be created into something extraordinary.

Q&A with the contractor, Crocus:

What’s going to be the biggest challenge on the build?

The biggest challenge by far is the construction of the two towers that are going into the garden – the tallest is over eight metres. I’m not sure that has been done before at Chelsea. We are working very closely with the stone company in Malta and we are trying to engineer it so that we can erect them in about two or three days. We are bringing over a specialist team from Malta to help with the work.

Do you think the judges have enough knowledge of the complexity of construction when deciding on the medals?

I believe that the quality of judging has improved over the last few years. There seems to be a much better balance of designers, contractors and nursery people than before, so I do think that they have sufficient knowledge to be able to judge.

Jacqui Haskins, marketing director for M&G, said: “The M&G Garden has been inspired by the principles of ecological sustainability and the urgent need for action to preserve the fragile balance of our planet. It is a symbol of sustainability and solutions that stand the test of time, themes that reflect M&G Investments’ own approach. We are confident that James’ creative design will once again create a show-stopping garden for all to enjoy.”

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