Journal

In celebration of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show always seems to present gardeners, young and old, with a little slice of horticultural magic at a time of year when inspiration is required in the face of inclement weather. This year was no exception, and the rain we experienced during April and the first half of May was swept away to reveal stunning Spring skies and warm, tropical sunshine. 

 

Visitors to the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden were overwhelmingly supportive and complementary of the design. Everyone seemed to love the planting - in particular the number of roses we used in the garden, and the way in which they were trained. As I stood talking to visitors about the garden, and handing out planting leaflets, I found myself explaining the technique of weaving pliable hazel canes into domes again, and again. 

 

I was truly touched by all the comments we received. It was such an affirmation that the design I felt would evoke memories of childhood gardens, and romantic, hazy summer days, really did achieve the reaction I had hoped for. And I have made such lovely friends - in the brilliant team at Crocus and the fabulous family firm of Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

 

It felt rather melancholy to be saying goodbye to the garden on Saturday. Having spent the best part of a month building and enjoying it, the garden felt like one of my own. The plants were growing - particularly the roses - and I found myself pruning and maintaining the borders as I would at home. So to celebrate its success and popularity, enjoy the short film which James Aiken has put together for us in celebration of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden.

Arne Maynard and David Hesketh MW with the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden RHS Gold MedalBBC cameras capture the moment Arne is presented with his Gold Medal

An RHS Gold Medal

David Hesketh MW, the garden team and I waited patiently on Tuesday morning for the cavalry of BBC reporters, cameras and cables to make their way to our garden. It seemed their route around the showground was not at all planned as they weaved their way from one side to the next, but we were thrilled to receive our Gold Medal when it finally arrived.

 

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden, although constructed in 17 days, has been in the making for over 10 years! I started thinking about it not long after my first Chelsea appearance in 2000, and have been adding to and honing the design ever since. I first met David at the end of 2010 after which preparations for this garden really started to take shape. I feel we have built a really strong relationship over that time and I am sure it will continue to thrive long after the curtain is drawn on this fleeting garden event. 

 

So it is with great pride that David and I accepted our medal on Tuesday morning. The early morning chill soon lifted with temperatures soaring to 27 degrees by mid-afternoon. And what a reception the garden has received by visitors to the show. I have been so touched by the lovely comments about the garden's planting scheme, its colours and scents, and it is the reaction of visitors which has made the unveiling of this anniversary garden so special for me. 

 

Thank you to all who have been involved - you know who you are! And here's to the glorious weather continuing throughout the week. 

 

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

Crocus

The making of a garden: Part III

In the third in our series of short films we give you a glimpse into the build and planting of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. James Aiken has once again shot a beautifully executed film, which leads us elegantly into show week. 

The making of a garden: Part II

We are well into the planting of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden now. The design I have created for Laurent-Perrier is really coming together and I am so excited to finally see the garden in its entirety. 

 

To celebrate Champagne Laurent-Perrier's bicentenary, and to mark their 18th Chelsea Flower Show, we have worked with filmmaker James Aiken to produce a series of beautiful, elegant films which really reflect the essence of the garden. 

 

Progress despite the rain

The Crocus team continue to make good progress on the build of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden. If Mark and his team are at all worried about the weather, they are doing a fabulous job of hiding it. We are all hoping for respite from the rain soon though - our waterproofs need a chance to dry out!

 

The French limestone wall is now complete and the pleached copper beech trees are being carefully planted correct to the millimetre positions that we planned off-site. The trees really give a fantastic scale to the garden and the rare evening sun last night cast wonderful shadows through their canopy onto the wall. The copper foliage is gently unfurling as each day we get closer to the show. The pleached trees give a fantastic counter balance to the pear tree and really draw you into the garden.

 

The small Buxus plants we have planted along the wall add a splash of fresh green with their new flush of foliage and are like individual characters on their crooked stems.

 

The making of a garden: the first Laurent-Perrier film

To mark the bicentenary of one of the world's leading champagne brands, and to chart the design and build of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012, we are working with filmmaker James Aiken to bring you a flavour of the expertise, dedication and passion of Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

 

This is the first in a series of three films which will be released in the final weeks of the Chelsea Flower Show garden build. We hope you enjoy the rare glimpses of the beautiful Chateâu de Louvois and the cellars and production centre at Tours-sur-Marne.

 

A special thank you to David Hesketh MW, Managing Director of Champagne Laurent-Perrier UK, who has made the project possible, Anne-Laure Domenichini of Laurent-Perrier for her beautiful French voice-over, and of course to Alexandra and Stéphanie de Nonancourt for their hospitality and energy for the garden.

 

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

Our Bank Holiday Pear Tree

Before most people were awake on the Bank Holiday weekend the ancient pear tree, which forms the corner-stone of my design for the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden, started its slow journey to the Royal Hospital showground, resplendent in its scaffold structure and tarpaulin cover.

 

The lorry made steady progress towards the Chelsea Flower Show site and arrived at about 7am on 5 May. The protective structure ensured there was no wind damage to the leaves and the pear tree arrived safely. Following its careful unload from the lorry, the special forklift, designed to handle such a heavy load, inched the tree down Main Avenue into its final planting position on the garden. The team from Crocus were brilliant - they really understood the importance of respect for such an ancient and beautiful tree.

 

It looks fantastic and just as we imagined.

 

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

Crocus

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea build begins

The build for our Chelsea Flower Show garden for Champagne Laurent-Perrier has begun. 

 

The first task on site was to get rid of the standing water, although the whole site is saturated and very quickly turning to mud! Good progress has been made on the wall and the stone mason arrives today to start putting the facing stone onto the wall. 

 

It's exciting to be at this stage and to see all the activity on site at last.  Spirits are high despite the rain - there's a great feeling of camaraderie on site. We will regularly be posting pictures here so do follow our progress.

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

The Chelsea roses under glassrose budRachel checking the climbing rosesRosa 'Astra Desmond'Opening rose bud

Back to Peter Beales

The roses we have selected for the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2012 are flourishing in the good hands of the team at Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk. During a trip to the nursery last Wednesday it was a hugely reassuring sight to see plenty of healthy growth on the plants.

 
Each of the 300 roses for the show had flower buds and fresh foliage.  It was truly impressive to see so many roses with such wonderful lush leaves in perfect condition.  Some of the climbers had put on almost one metre of growth since we last visited in February.  We are hoping to use the climber Rosa 'Astra Desmond' against the boundary wall, quite different to the darker leaves of some of the shrub roses.


The cool weather means that some heat may have to be introduced into the glasshouses within the next week to bring development on. The team are well practiced at ensuring that plants are in perfect shape for the start of Chelsea week. Our roses will be delivered to the show ground in just two and a half weeks' time and we need the buds ready to open and only just beginning to open by then.  We are feeling positive!

 

Peter Beales Roses

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

An unseasonal blizzard in Derbyshire

Joel and I spent an enjoyable, if a little chilly, day at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire last week. We left relative balmy sunshine in London but as we reached Derbyshire we were hit with a blizzard. April weather taken to extremes!

We were visiting the Hall to plan for the next stage of planting in our design - after working with Lord Edward Manners on his private garden on the estate, we have now moved on to the public access terraced gardens around the main Hall. The photographs show the fountain terrace which was planted last year with topiary and an underplanting of a wild flower mead. The borders on the terrace are filled with tulips (just coming into flower), super poppies and roses, which of course Haddon is renowned for but which we have edited and added to to create a tighter colour palette. I am anxious to see the results in May and June.

The next area to plant will be the Bowling Green terrace, which is positioned above the Fountain Terrace. It will consist mainly of plants used for dying such as flag iris, dahlias, Alchemilla mollis and Sanguisorba. We are also hoping to replant the knot garden with a lattice of Santolina and Teucrium.

www.haddonhall.co.uk

The 'Chelsea Pen' at Crocus where all the plants are being storedSome of the Chelsea plants sparkling in the early morning lightOne of the verbascums I am hoping to use in the gardenRachel is dwarfed by the ancient pearClive directing Arne for the Gardenia shootAn early morning chat at Crocus

An Italian morning at Crocus

On Tuesday we went to visit the plants for the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden at Crocus and meet with Margherita Lombardi from Italian magazine Gardenia who will be covering the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in her May issue.

It was an early start, but well worth it as Clive Nichols took some fantastic photographs for the feature of the plants full of fresh growth and sparkling in the early morning sunlight. Of course you'll have to wait for Gardenia to see these - the shots here were taken by Britt, our own in-house photographer!

Many of the plants have now been moved outside but some remained in the tunnels to protect them from the impending snow! The weather is keeping everyone on their toes at the moment but all the plants seem to be doing well and Karen is confident that we will have some of all the plants we want flowering to perfection for the show - we now just have to keep our fingers crossed!

www.crocus.co.uk

www.clivenichols.com

www.laurent-perrier.fr/uk

Allt-y-bela captured starlit by James Aiken

Winter at Allt-y-bela

WINTER at Allt-y-bela - my home in Monmouthshire, South Wales.

I am really excited to be able to introduce the first in a planned series of four films to be made throughout 2012. James Aiken's films are beautifully shot, using light and sound to great effect giving them instant atmosphere. I hope the series we have planned captures a little of the essence of the garden I am creating at Allt-y-bela.

I hope you enjoy them.

the ancient pear we will be bringing to Chelseaone of the topiary we have selected for Chelsea

A visit to see the trees

Last Wednesday Rachel and I had a day return trip to Holland and Belgium.  Our first stop was the tree nursery where I have selected a beautiful, ancient pear tree for the garden I have designed for Laurent-Perrier at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012.  The tree will be positioned in the corner of the garden to anchor the space to its surroundings and add balance to the large pieces of topiary and the Chelsea Hospital plane trees.

 

We wanted to see the pear tree again and crucially check that it will fit on a lorry that is the right width to fit through the Bull Ring gates at the Chelsea Hospital showground.  The nursery had been concerned that it would require a 3m wide lorry.  However, much to our relief, the magnificent specimen is going to require very little pruning to reach its destination in the show garden. 

 

With that resolved we went on to another specialist nursery across the border in Belgium.  Here we made our final selection of topiary for the garden.  Three majestic pieces of Buxus sempervirens 'Rotundifolia' have been clipped with care over the last 100 years to reach their statuesque sizes.   To go with these we choose some pieces of smaller Buxus on legs, which will be perfect along the planting bed to the side of the path.

 

Having achieved our aims for the day we came home excited about how they are going to look within the garden. To help with their precise positioning and to check the balance of the garden, we are having a scale model of the garden built complete with to-scale trees and plant elements.

Betulus nigra specimen at the nurseryDetail of the bark of Betulus nigraMalus Spring Snow (winter)Malus Spring Snow (spring)Acer tataricum (winter seed heads)Arne with Acer tataricum Hot Wings specimen at the nurseryAcer tataricum Hot Wings (summer seed heads)Unusual native vine with striking orange berriesUnusual native vine with striking orange berries

Minneapolis revisited

We are creating a wonderful garden in Minneapolis, which is taking Stefano and I to the United States on a regular basis. We spent a very exciting week there last week choosing the specimen plants we will include in the garden.

 

We had hoped to use Betula nigra- the river birch - but it will be too big and overpowering for the design. We had also hoped to use Acer griseum but the climate will be slightly too cold for it and we feel it is too much of a risk. Minneapolis is in hardiness zone 4.5 andAcer griseumneeds zone 5 - if the garden experienced a hard winter, this acer would not survive. We want to create a garden with longevity so it is really important we choose plants that are going to thrive.

 

Our trip last week turned up two trees which we think are going to be perfect for the design - a malus (crab apple) with a beautiful white flower and an alternative acer with gorgeous bright red seeds. Neither will be too big for the planting scheme but we have found some lovely mature specimens that with some careful pruning will make beautiful shapes. They will be placed amongst criss-crossing clouds of taxus with clipped domes of euonymous to link them. The rest of the planting scheme feels very contemporary using native American prairie plants within a matrix of Briza media (quaking grass).

 

In addition, we found an incredible native vine which we plan to train over trellis in the garden we are creating. It has the most wonderful orange berries and will be a fantastic addition to the scheme.

 

It was really very exciting seeing the trees at the nursery but the visit really brought it home to me how lucky we are to have nurseries in Europe selling such a diverse choice of plants, shrubs and trees. Our temperate climate allows us to grow such a huge variety of plants - we really can be spoiled for choice. In America however, the choice is limited - by climate and availability.

 

Luckily my planting schemes only ever rely on a small palette of plants, repeated to create striking plant combinations.  For this design we are using lots of native American prairie plants and whilst driving through the vast expanses of wild prairie meadows, frosted with winter ice crystals, we couldn't wait to return later in the season to see perennials we use in gardens in Europe flowering here in their natural habitat.

Rose hips in snowPots of roses in the snowArne with the team at Peter Beales checking the plantsSnow covered roses at Peter Beales

A visit to Peter Beales roses

We had a very inspiring day at Peter Beales Roses back in early February, where we met with the talented plantsmen Ian Limmer who is the Manager of the nursery and Michael who is a specialist grower from a long line of nurserymen.  They are using their expert knowledge to tenderly grow our roses for Chelsea. A large part of Michael's job is to look after our roses and the roses for the Peter Beales exhibit for Chelsea.  From now on he will breath, sleep and dream Chelsea roses!  

The roses are a major part of the planting scheme for the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden.  We have full trust and confidence that Ian and Michael can produce the perfect blooms and buds for our garden.  We will, however, have to hope that the weather is kind to us during the build of the garden.  We don't want rain otherwise these perfect blooms could be in trouble!   

Whilst at the nursery we saw all our roses covered in snow, looking a long way from their full glory. However, we were able to work out how we are going to arrange the roses around the hazel domes within the garden to create the effect that we want.  Some of the roses are now being trained in a gentle fan shape to enable us to tie them into the domes.  It feels really exciting and we can now envisage how they are going to look within the garden. 

 

Peter Beales Roses

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Arne with Mark Fane at CrocusArne and Rachel with the team at CrocusWooden posts and string used for setting out the gardenJohnny and the team setting out the garden at Crocus

Setting out at Crocus

We recently had one of our monthly meetings at Crocus to discuss the construction of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden for the Chelsea Flower Show 2012 and check all of the plants, which are growing on at the Crocus nursery.  We were also able to walk through our garden for the first time as it was set out on the ground at Crocus, using wooden pegs and string.  This was enormously useful to get a feel for the scale of the garden I have designed.   We were able to walk around the area and see how it all works and decide on any adjustments which might be needed.  We made some minor changes to give a more generous feeling of space. 

The path felt too narrow, particularly when I envisaged the pleached copper beech trees linign each side of the avenue, so we have widened the path slightly.  Now hopefully the balance is just right. 

It was most exciting seeing all of the plants potted up and getting a sense of what their scale and texture will be like from those promising buds.  The plants are being beautifully cared for by Karen the nursery manager at Crocus and her team.  Some are showing new growth but many are still dormant.  Rather like pots of paint with the labels hidden, full of promise and one can only imagine the wonderful colours and texture which lies below.  It fills me with huge excitement and anticipation for May.

 

Laurent-Perrier

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Crocus

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary GardenThe Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary GardenThe Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

Since the turn of the New Year, the design studio has been energised with a renewed sense of expectation - and a certain amount of trepidation! With the Chelsea Flower Show on-site build only 16 weeks away we are ensuring we have all the materials, plants and support we need. I thought therefore that it was about time I share the design on the website - and we will be writing more regularly over the coming weeks about our preparations.

 

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden is a timeless, ornamental 'gardener's garden'. All elements of the garden will be carefully handcrafted, complemented by a soft planting scheme to provide elegant structure. The design was inspired by Laurent-Perrier's 200-year heritage of time-honoured methods and reputation for creating pioneering champagnes. It showcases exacting attention to detail, combining traditional and contemporary elements through both the planting and landscaping.

 

The planting itself creates the structure of the garden. I have used architectural pleached copper beech trees to give height and a sense of enclosure, which will turn golden through winter months. Topiary arrangements have been formed to add character and shape to the planting and an antique pear tree provides a key focal point at the front corner. Flowing water will outline the garden adding movement and a cool elegance.

 

This garden is not intended to baffle visitors to the show - instead it has been designed as a 'real' garden, which will appeal to any visitor with a love of plants and a keen eye for plant combinations. It is relaxed enough to be able to gather a bunch of flowers for the house, or to entertain friends on the central terrace. I will be available throughout the week to answer questions about the plants and I hope that visitors will be inspired to try a few of the combinations in their own borders at home.

www.laurent-perrier.com

www.crocus.co.uk

www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea