They are all well respected professionals, be it garden designers, landscape architects, writers, or new entrepreneurs, yet every year, they leave their lives behind for a full week, to help me plant my Chelsea show garden. Much of the Chelsea media focus is on the designer, and to some extent the contractor, yet the truly undeservedly unseen side of Chelsea, is the planting team. Take it from me, show gardens that size, completed in a short time frame to an incredibly high standard, are not created by one person alone.
Working in the pressure cooker that is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the team is everything. As a show garden designer, you need to know that you are surrounded by knowledgeable people, whom not only intuitively understand what you are trying to do, but can provide advice where needed, and challenge one when something is deemed wrong. With that level of understanding, also comes that synergy, where (and they don’t know that I knew), spontaneous clandestine ‘executive decisions’, are made by the team, which not only made me smile, but for which I’m grateful.
Managed by the incomparable Nina Baxter (garden designer), the corevteam includesvYuko Tanabe (landscape architect), Kate Carr (garden designer), Tracey McQue (garden designer), Petra Hoyer Millar (writer), Serena Craig-Harvey (garden designer) and Rosie Nottage (garden designer). All, well respected professionals in their own right, fuelled by nothing but their love for gardens, (and by a little help from a mountain of biscuits consumed by all). The fact that I have the luxury of pretty much the same team year on year never fails to astound me.
How she does so, I don’t know, but Nina instinctively knows what I need before I do. She swiftly gathers up the dream team just after Christmas, and manages them all on site with ease and grace, and the team respect her immensely. Nina can spot errors a mile off, and her advice is priceless. Yuko not only comes with extraordinary plant knowledge, and landscape architect’s eye, but also a superb physical flexibility which enables her to plant up the most inaccessible spaces. Yuko seems to know just what’s in my mind, and if she remains silent, I know she doesn’t like what has just been done. Kate is amazingly hard working and a superb plantswoman. Twitter has much to answer for, bringing me not just Rosie and Petra but also our very own ‘wee’Tracey Mcque, who flies in from Scotland for the occasion, armed with more chocolate digestives than you can throw a stick at. Eminently practical, Tracey is invaluable on hand everywhere, nurturing the trees and shrubs on a daily basis, feeding them interesting sugary concoctions, and generally perking them up no end. Petra, geniusly clever and intuitive; our resident blogger and aura of calm, not only can reach anything due to her being 8 inches taller than me, but also has a great eye for photography. Rosie, whom even when stricken with the flu, works like a trooper and is an absolute super planter. Serena, newly qualified garden designer, is not only lovely to have around, but a competitor in flexibility with Yuko, as she too can manage to squeeze herself into the smallest of places in the garden.
Shielded from nothing but one’s focus, much of Chelsea goes by in a flash. It seems, that when lost in thought, desperately trying to focus on an area in the garden through the immense noise made by the daily JCB orchestra, my team will quite intuitively disappear, to give me the room to see and concentrate on the garden. How this happens, I’m not quite sure, but it seems very much the order of the week for this incredible team. They understand me, the garden and what is needed, which is more than one could ever hope for.
It might sound slightly bananas, but for me, the planting in a garden has to have that ‘happy feel’ to it, and I thought we achieved that, very much reflected by the wonderful people who planted it.