24 May 2002

One earthy touch at Chelsea

The show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show are

an eclectic mix of high tech, healing and

nostalgia this year. Tessa Gates and photographer

Jonathan Page toured the show

THE show gardens at Chelsea this year are as impressive as ever but many of them are not gardens that a real home would wear well or real people, rather than corporate sponsorship, could afford. A distinct exception to this is the West Midlands-Shizuoka Goodwill Garden, which may well strike a chord with FW readers.

Designer Chris Caligari was inspired by a painting entitled The Old Grey Fergie. It evoked feelings in him of comfort and nostalgia and the idea for a Midlands farm garden.

"I wanted it to be based on my area so everything in it came from the West Midlands area, including the oak barn and the old fencing," he explained.

"The footpath and the stile are an invitation to people to come and see the area, to realise it can be a beautiful, not just industrial place. I thought it would be a way of helping the rural economy, especially after foot-and-mouth. The English Tourist Board and the Countryside Agency have been most supportive."

Chris worked with co-designer Julian Doyle, winner of nine gold medals, on the garden which features a working Fergie and a very simple but effective water feature – an old galvanised watering can in a stone trough. The planting is a mix of cottage garden favourites including foxgloves, aquilegia, cornflowers and verbascum, with a natural wildflower verge outside the weathered fence. It was drawing longing looks from many Chelsea visitors. Perhaps it will trigger some to holiday on a farm this year.

Monkey cup (left) from Hampshire Carnivorous Plants. Above Tearmann Sí – A Celtic Sanctuary designed by Mary Reynolds. Right: Curcuma Alismatifolia Pink from Oakland Nurseries, Leics.

A familiar scene?Aglimpse of West Midlands-Shizuoke Goodwill Garden (above). Garden features can be expensive – the globe (left) with its fascinating vortex of water and light costs in excess of £10,000 without its plinth and the Koi carp below, the first livestock

ever allowed at Chelsea, fetch £1000/fish.

Loo-king to highlight human waste composting in the developing world, Water Aid received £58,333 from the Chelsea preview gala.