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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Q&A – Main Avenue – The Chengdu Silk Road Garden

In Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collin’s fourth show garden at the prestigious flower show, The Chengdu Silk Road Garden combines architecture and planting in a conceptual East-West landscape, connected with a dramatic ‘Silk Road’ bridge. The Garden has been sponsored by the Chengdu Government and the plants provided by Kelways Nurseries and various suppliers in the UK and Europe.

Q&A with the garden designers, Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins:

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

The original concept work was started last summer. The particular challenges of the triangle site and the Chinese sponsors’ aspirations, together with the garden’s technical complexity have meant the design development and refinement is still on-going

What are the stand-out features of this particular garden?

The design of the garden takes full advantage of the multiple viewpoints that are a unique feature of the triangle site. A strong linear ‘Silk Road’ path – with silk woven along its route – runs the length of the garden, and the form of the garden depicts the different landscapes of Chengdu and the surrounding Sichuan Province.

The planting design reflects these different planting environments with domed forms providing main structure planting and creating an undulating ‘canopy’ to complement the curved landform of the garden. The planting is a celebration of the flora of China and showcases some of the huge variety of species, particularly those from the province of Sichuan.

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

The Chengdu City Government wanted a garden that would showcase their city to the world and reflect historic and new East West links. This is the first time they have sponsored a garden.

The capital of the ancient Shu kingdom 3,000 years ago, Chengdu has been known since ancient times as ‘the Abundant Land’ owing to its fertile soil and favourable climate. The Silk Road Garden reflects this rich history and culture. At the heart of the garden the symbol of the 3,000-year-old Sun and Immortal Bird, which is the logo of Chengdu City and Chinese Cultural Heritage lies on a central theatrical ‘plaza’.


Q&A with the contractor, Willerby Landscapes Ltd:

What are you looking forward to most about building this show garden?

We have worked with Laurie and Patrick on their previous three show gardens but this is the first time we have built a garden of this type where the structure has been developed as a pre-fabricated modular concept.

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

A main London sewer runs directly under the triangle site requiring different methods of design, engineering and construction that do not involve digging down.  Much of the garden is being pre-constructed off-site which will require a different approach to its delivery and installation on-site.

Are specialist contractors required for any elements?

The pre-fabrication of many of the hard elements of the garden off-site is requiring specialist architectural modelling and detailed 3D design work, with specialist fabricators working with the designers, engineers and contractors.


Chengdu Government spokesperson: “We want to raise awareness in the west of the history, culture and beautiful landscape of Sichuan Province, as well as reflecting trade and cultural relationships between China and the UK.  We will be recreating the garden after the event to launch a major gardens initiative in the City of Chengdu.”

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