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    RHS Chelsea 2019 Diaries – Dan Riddleston – part one

    After a year off from building a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we’re back again. This year, we’re working with garden designer Helen Elks-Smith to build her first Main Avenue garden for Warner Edwards Distillery.

    Helen approached us last year and outlined her design to us – a garden inspired by the natural springs and aquifers at Falls Farm in Northamptonshire, home to Warner Edwards Distillery, featuring a complex series of water features flowing in and out of drystone walls. The central pavilion, designed with Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater in mind, will feature floating cantilevered roofs and protruding water rills, whilst more water will flow down a central chimney through a string of copper ‘fins’ before disappearing into the ground.

    The design is stunning, but my thoughts immediately turned to the complicated structures and techniques that we will need to create it, not least the amount of steel work that will be required to hold the cantilevered roofs that need to be completely hidden behind the drystone walls.

    A few months on and we’ve assembled a team of experts to master the challenge and ensure that the finished garden fits with Helen’s vision. David Shaw from PAD architects is helping to turn the structure into a viable building, while structural engineer Lee Stidolph from Constructure will help bring it to life. Water expert Andrew Ewing will consult on the multiple water features to make sure they appear exactly as Helen envisaged.

    Artist Wendy Newhofer is working on a glass wall which we are currently looking at to find ways of suspending it within the building, and bespoke furniture, designed by Helen, is already in construction by a team of master craftsmen at Jack Badger.

    With so many complex elements to build, much of the construction will take place off-site to ensure enough time is allowed for planting, another element that is not without its challenges this year amid uncertainty about plant passports. Fortunately, Helen’s plants have all been imported safely and the trees, hedges and specimen shrubs are now being grown on by Deepdale, while Rosy Hardy is growing the remaining plant stock. Planting will be in four zones including a living roof on the cantilevered building so we must ensure we complete all our projects in time to allow the planting team to move in.

    Earlier in the year, we visited Glebe Quarry in Lincolnshire to help select a distinctive weathered blue-brown limestone that we will use to make the drystone walls and paving. More on that, and a colossal amount of steel, in my next post.

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