The MGS Forum

Talking points. Comments and questions on: => Other events of Mediterranean garden interest => Topic started by: JTh on February 27, 2012, 04:38:09 PM

Title: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: JTh on February 27, 2012, 04:38:09 PM
I have been asked by June Grindley (MGS Provence Branch) to make it known that former MGS member James Basson of Scape Design) is creating a garden for the Chelsea flower show this year (May 22 to 26th). It will be a very (dry!) Mediterranean garden with lots of plants coming from nurseries in the Alpes Mediterranee, Var and Languedoc including those of Oliver Filippi and Benoit Beauvallet.

I tried to attach the official press release here, but it exceeds the maximum file size allowed, if anybody is interested, I could send it. Unfortunately, it is not yet on Scape Design's home page ( (
Title: Re: MGS member's garden at the Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Marilyn on March 01, 2012, 04:27:01 PM
Oh, how very exciting! I would be very interested to see the plan/press release. Perhaps I will have to see about a break to the UK at Chelsea time... have not been for several years. Will PM you my email. Thanks.
Title: Re: Dry garden at the Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on March 02, 2012, 09:59:42 AM
Just to note that James was a member of the MGS from 2003 to 2006. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's done at Chelsea, and will try to post a picture or two.
Title: Re: Dry garden at the Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 21, 2012, 08:49:33 PM
As promised, here are three mobile-phone snapshots of James Basson's garden (for Renault) at the Chelsea Show, which opens tomorrow.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 21, 2012, 08:58:15 PM
A new introduction which a lot of people were talking about at the show was Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Gold', bred by Alan Postill and shown by Hilliers.
I myself much prefer Aztec Pearl!
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 22, 2012, 07:03:06 AM
At the show this year there is very little in the way of summer-dry exhibits. (Hardly surprising, as after the wettest and coldest April for many years the contractors putting the show together have had to work in what became virtually a sea of mud.) By far the most interesting from a "mediterranean" point of view, and really the only true summer-dry exhibit, is the display arranged by the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden of South Africa, which shows naturalistic South African habitats. The two first pictures below give some idea. One of the plants they include is Strelitzia juncea, more interesting than the usual S. reginae - click here ( to see.
As usual there are quite a few really gimmicky exhibits - the third picture shows some of the Chelsea Pensioners (the retired armed services veterans who by tradition live in the Chelsea Royal Hospital, in the grounds of which the Chelsea Show is held) lined up in a sort of plant skyscraper that one firm has erected here.
The garden designs that I found most appealing were tucked away in a modest side area, labelled "Artisan Gardens". None was at all "mediterranean" in that all would need plenty of summer water - but for anyone interested I took a short mobile-phone video of my own favourite, a delightfully gentle Japanese garden, which you can see by clicking here (
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Marilyn on May 24, 2012, 05:38:24 PM
Thanks for sharing those, Alisdair; I have been getting rather frustrated in my attempts to catch up on Chelsea this year, it seems rather difficult to watch any videos online (the RHS site kept crashing and the BBC doesn't let me see their programs from overseas). The Japanese garden certainly looks very charming. I like that you briefly included that dapper Japanese fellow for authenticity. I am still not sure I have much of a picture of the James Basson garden, another I am having trouble finding footage of. What did you think of it?
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Michael j Campbell on May 24, 2012, 06:20:40 PM
   Marilyn, you can download a program( for free) called "Expat Shield" and it will let you watch the BBC. You will need to close it down when working normally otherwise it will keep popping up and annoying you. It assign's you an English IP address, I have had it for the past year and it works fine.

Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 24, 2012, 07:41:44 PM
Marilyn, I'll send you a private note on what I thought of the Basson garden.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: David Bracey on May 27, 2012, 09:52:49 AM
I have spent some time watching "Chelsea" on the TV.  There were many issues relevant to the MGS and I am only sorry that I did not have paper and pencil ready at the time.

Water, water management, water sustainability , straight-lined water features were the order of the day. A new word, rill or rile, seems to become popular. .

Roof gardens featuring succulents was briefly featured.  Another subject which has been mentioned on this Forum is "Childrens`gardens" which is gaining local support in the UK.  This should be an MGS initiative maybe managed by the local BH?

Grow your own vegetables linked to "eat 5 fruit/vegetables a day" weas featured.  A subject rarely touched on by the MGS or the Forum.

Evidently one of the last flower colours we see at night is blue followed by white and silver.  Night flowers and scents encourage moths and then bats which feed on the moths.  Nicotiana tabaci, Liliums were mentioned as excellent scented "night flowers".  This offers possibilities to the mediterranean gardener. The use of up-lighters also provided food for future design

I thought that mediterranean plants featured strongly.  A "new" plant mentioned was  Trachelospermum asiaticum.

Alisdair I think you should share your thoughts on Basson`s garden now that you`ve mentioned it. Did the MGS have any part in the planning, design , execution or finance of this garden?

This is a world stage for gardening and it would be good in the MGS could be present in some form.  The President has said that he would like to increase mebership and this would seem to be the obvious event to make this happen.  Of course having a Goal would help.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 27, 2012, 10:07:02 AM
David, the MGS took no part in James Basson's garden. (There was no call for it to have done so.)
I had initially (i.e. a few years ago) thought that as you suggest it might be useful for the MGS to try something at Chelsea. However, I have since changed my mind. There is virtually no hope whatsoever that the MGS could secure the funding needed to put on the sort of impressive stand or model garden which would really attract attention (money just evaporates in preparing Chelsea displays, most of the eye-catching ones have cost upwards of £100,000), and in any event for display gardens the RHS show rules demand previous successful displays by the MGS at other lesser RHS shows before an invitation to show at Chelsea is extended.
We would almost certainly be allowed to put on a display in the more or less educational corner. Even that would be a lot of effort in creating the display itself and the leaflets we'd need, and in preparing all the volunteers needed - preferably three at a time, though two might just about do - to man the stand really well over the six days (including the vital Monday private view). It might not be too difficult to find good well informed volunteers, working together in say three shifts on each of the days. But I think the main argument against trying to set all that up is that the educational corner always seems so relatively dull in comparison with the colour and verve of the plant and garden displays that I honestly don't think the results in terms of getting people interested would justify the massive effort needed.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Umbrian on May 28, 2012, 07:12:02 AM
The MGS did have a presence at Chelsea several years ago when it combined with a research group involved with water conservation and drought tolerant plants. Despite the fact that the stand was not very "exciting" to my mind and that the choice of plants was poor and poorly displayed, it did attract a fair amount of attention. I think the MGS was very much the second string on this occasion and did not have a lot of input especially regarding the plants used to support the stand.
I think in theory that a MGS stand at Chelsea would be a good idea as it is the showcase for gardening throughout the world but the costs involved in staging a really good stand would be high and in the current economic crisis probably not possible not to mention the amount of work involved which, inevitably would fall on a few, already overworked members probably!
I went as a volunteer helper on the aforementioned stand and enjoyed talking to people who showed an interest. The possibility of doing something in the future should not be dismissed.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Christine on May 28, 2012, 08:31:22 AM
Although I didn't manage to get to Chelsea myself I did spot an article by Bunny Guinness in one of the UK Sunday papers. Under the heading "Impressive small gardens" she writes "The Renault garden designed by James Basson ( was my personal 'Best in Show' despite occupying a difficult small site. It featured pudding stone, a dusty, waste aggregate which James formed into 10 columns of about 2m high. The pudding stone (from France) contains buff pebbles, clay fines and various size gravels..... The pebble paving was made from the same material, selecting out pebbles to represent a dry riverbed.......Everything was made from recycled material and much of it could be made at home"......

However, frustratingly, she doesn't write anything about the planting.

James has been a very helpful contributor to MGS activities here in France, both by gaining access for us to gardens with waterwise planting and acting as a tutor on our mediterranean gardening Design Course. I'll get in contact with him when he returns home to see if he can share some information about the plants he used and photos of the garden.
Title: Re: Chelsea flower show 2012
Post by: Alisdair on May 28, 2012, 08:37:58 PM
David mentioned children's gardens. One endearing exhibit at Chelsea was of flowers grown by children at a number of primary schools in celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee - see my rather hasty cellphone snapshot below.
(Incidentally, in the MGS trip to Croatia next Spring, although the emphasis will be mainly on wild plants in magnificent scenery, one of several gardens we shall be visiting is a remarkable 12-hectare botanic garden attached to and run by a primary school there - Chris Gardner who has just returned from a recce for the trip was amazed at it.)