For this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Chris Beardshaw has returned to his roots as a nurseryman, and is taking the unusual step of personally growing and nurturing over 2000 herbaceous plants, which will play a starring role in The Morgan Stanley Garden.
Chris began his horticultural career at 11 years old, working at weekends at a nursery in Worcestershire where he learnt to propagate plants and inspire customers. It was here that his real passion for plants began. And now after 35 years in the horticultural, and garden design industry, Chris is enjoying being back in the glasshouse and getting up-close and personal with the many thousands of stunning plants, he will soon be planting in the Morgan Stanley Garden on Main Avenue.
Chris, who created his first RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden in 1998 and has gone on to win 11 RHS Gold Medals, said, “There is something magical about being able to handle, nurture and encourage our plants in a refined environment with a very specific goal – that of bringing the plants to as close to perfection as possible in time for the show. In doing so I am getting to know the plant material intimately, not just the difference between the species, but every plant in every pot becomes familiar and as a consequence I can already build up a picture of how the plant will play a role in the finished garden.”
The Morgan Stanley Garden features two distinct planting areas and unusually for Chelsea, the public will be able to view the garden from three sides, with each perspective providing a contrasting planting style.
A sinuous path leads from a naturalistic woodland which features a collection of specimen trees which are underplanted with an array of woodland perennial species such as Hostas’, Geranium, Brunnera and Ferns, to provide a verdant tapestry of foliage textures.
The informal path makes the transition from the woodland through to a dramatic, oak and limestone Loggia, which has been designed by Chris and was inspired by his study of fractal geometry, as found in nature and the structures of nature. The path leads out to a third zone which contrasts the woodland with a sun soaked terrace at the front of the garden. The area is richly planted with abundant jewel like perennials, such as Iris, Geraniums, Echiums, Agapanthus and specimen herbs.
Chris concluded, “Like most designers for shows we usually prepare our designs and select our plants from commercial nurseries, who then grow them on for us. We will visit them regularly to check on progress but the next time we see them is when they are delivered to Chelsea. It’s then straight off the trollies and onto the show garden for planting. But this year we decided to do things differently. Looking after the plants is obviously very time consuming when we are so busy with everything else. And is quite challenging as we have to work with the changing weather conditions - holding back some species, while coaxing on others. But for me the planting is the aspect of any show garden creation I love the most and this year will be even more special and rewarding.”