Swatton Landscape Blog

Paradise Garden – Chelsea flower show 2014

It was back to Chelsea for my ninth year and back working with Cleve West, this time on his paradise garden sponsored by M&G Investments.

An initial conversation about this garden first took place about 2 years prior just as the dust, or perhaps more accurately, the mud was settling from our last Chelsea venture. It’s a tricky time to discuss a main avenue return when you're still reeling from the exhaustion of the last build. The only break in the work load is a few hours sleep, over priced beer and Battersea’s finest curry. However it wasn’t long before Mr West had our full attention with a new concept filled with some very interesting detailing and material prospects.


Cleve wanted to look at using Bath stone to create the central fountain and also as a background for an idea for a carving involving tree roots that would be positioned within the yew hedge line. All of this sounded fantastic, however it was when he said he wanted to explore the use of flint within the garden things became even more interesting.


Over the months that followed we developed the concept and tuned the proportions and details to suit the materials. I believe the use of flint at Chelsea has been very limited but Cleve wanted to look into using it not only as a walling material but also as a natural faced cobble paving. We also started to develop the idea of working the flint to make up the feature inlay shells on the fountain. Devonshire Chert was finally chosen as it lent itself really well to all three uses with fantastic textures and colours that complimented the Bath stone more than our local Sussex flint.


Selecting Chert cobbles with their natural face for the sunken area floor.


Chert/flint as its found and extracted from the ground. Natures hidden treasure


The shell inlays being made up. Saturdays became shell days for Robot and myself, tricky but a rewarding task. 


Water testing at Bamber's workshop, an engineer’s play area! Also one of the nicest and knowledgeable guys you will meet in this business. 


There comes a day when its just time to get on with it. Months and months of planning and finally we're let loose on our 22m x 10m plot. You never know what chelsea will throw at you but preparation and the right team is key to everything. We had both plus a dry site to start with! That was nature just luring us into a false sense of security!


Hedge trench excavated and the external screen is underway. Spot Robot finding a moment for some impromptu shovel guitar moves. Nice!



We begin placing the 5 individual carved stones that Cleve has been working on in Darren’s yard. From memory I think he chose to stay in the office that day. We designed a steel support structure for each piece that was then bolted down to a ground anchored RSJ.


Hedging is going in, however the weather has turned and things have become a little more interesting. At the same time as pushing on with our schedule we have to try to minimise mess created by the machines.


The pre-fabricated pond is in position and this sets the geometry and setting out for the rest of the garden. Suspicions are soon confirmed that the tolerances in building to an octagon are virtually 0mm when working with pre-cut stone units. We do love a challenge.


Most of our wet work was positioned in the centre of the site around the fountain and it was absolutely essential that we had dry conditions in order to stay on schedule. Forward planning and the investment of our bespoke canopy was our saviour as we watched from beneath the shelter as the rain poured down for the next three or four days.



The canopy is off and we push on with the final stages of the sunken terrace and the last layers of the fountain.


To be successful at Chelsea you need an excellent team that can adapt and apply themselves to anything. I’m very lucky as the guys that work with me on these projects possess fantastic skills and have an understanding of how materials work. It sometimes frustrates me that the public don’t see the amount of hours and sheer hard work the team put in, but essentially we do it for our own challenge and it’s a unique way of showcasing what we can do.

The Team – ‘The Robot’, Dan, Max, Steve, Will, Dave, and Brad (not in shot)

This entry was posted on Friday, August 22nd, 2014 at 9:57 am and is filed under Fresh News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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