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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020: John Ward Planting Scheme Q&A

We've caught up with award-winning garden designer, John Ward, to discover more about his intended planting scheme for our 'Full Circle' Chelsea Flower Show 2020 Stand.
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Artists impression of our 'Full Circle' Chelsea Flower Show 2020 Stand by Callum Kiss.

Chelsea Flower Show 2020 would have marked our third consecutive year exhibiting our steam bent product range and our talented team's innovative craftsmanship on Main Avenue. Despite the show having to be cancelled this year, we wanted to share more about our 'Full Circle' garden planting scheme with you to celebrate what would have been a truly eye-catching spectacle.

This year we had plans to team up with award-winning garden designer, John Ward from Azara Landscapes and collaborate with the Tree Council plus Beach Bros Limited to showcase the importance of sustainability and woodland regeneration. We've caught up with John Ward to discover more about his design and what would have been...

 

TR: What inspired your idea of creating the woodland regeneration planting scheme for our steam bent ‘Full Circle’ stand?

JW: The inspiration for the planting scheme very much came from my conversations with Tom during the early phases of the designing process. It was largely based around the ethos of the Tom Raffield brand - sustainability - and each element carefully considered and balanced environmental implications. Taking care of our natural environment has never been more important and we wanted to highlight the natural beauty of our woodlands and how this beauty can be retained when well managed. Hence, the scheme was designed around regenerative native woodlands.

 

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Planting scheme for our 'Full Circle' Main Avenue Stand designed by Azara Landscapes.

TR: How would you have recreated an authentic woodland scene – is it important to consider heights, textures and colour palette?

JW: We decided early on to design the planting around a Silver Birch woodland with the various stages of regeneration represented by a mixture of saplings through to more mature specimens, providing a variety of heights. The canopy of a Birch woodland isn’t as dense as some other species, allowing dappled shade to be cast onto the floor below, especially at the woodland edge, allowing a rich mix of shade loving plants to take hold.

Different textures and shades of green would have provided the backbone to the under canopy and acted as a calming foil to the flowering plants which were intended to be a subtle mixture of white, purple/mauve and soft yellows, creating a very natural feel to the scheme. The occasional decaying branch and tree stump would have given a hint to the natural cycle of renewal.

 

TR: Talk us through your plant selection…

JW: The backbone of the garden would have been the Silver Birch trees of differing sizes, placed in groups to represent different parts of the woodland, some providing a denser canopy than others. Foliage plants such as ferns (Dryopteris and Asplenium), Arun italicum and Asarum europaeum would have given texture to the under canopy, especially in the denser shaded areas, whilst spires of white Foxglove (Digitalis) would have provided height alongside a sub canopy layer of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) and Euphorbia.

Geranium, Tellima, Tiarella, Phlox and Aquilegia were amongst the flowering plants on the woodland edge that would have yielded drifts of soft colour. Whilst many of the plants selected were actually cultivators, the inspiration for the planting and the feeling created was very much a native woodland mix.

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An abundance of green foliage would have been planted in the shade of the Silver Birch trees and created a calming woodland feel.
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A selection of plants chosen by John Ward and the Azara Landscape team to create our woodland regeneration theme.

TR: Is it difficult to source plants that are blooming and in their prime come show week? We can imagine it takes a lot of careful planning and consideration!

JW: All of the plants we selected in the scheme are ones that should naturally be looking their best for show week. However, it’s never quite that simple and weather conditions in the run up to the show can make a big difference.

With such a dry and sunny Spring this year, many plants would have been well ahead of where they should have been - so we also had a backup list of plants that could be swapped in if others were behind or ahead of schedule. Also, given the natural look we were aiming for, it wouldn't have been so critical that every plant was looking its very best – having some that had already gone over or were not quite ready to bloom would have added to the natural look.

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Shade dwelling plants such as ferns would have been right at home amongst the bows of Silver Birch.

TR: What was your standout of the planting scheme/whole design?

JW: To be honest we were never really looking for a standout plant or feature but more of a holistic scheme that felt very natural and acted as a foil for the amazing steam bent bench that was to flow through the entire planting scheme. The whole aesthetic needed to harmoniously work together. That being said, the Foxgloves would have really stood out amongst the garden and are one of my personal favourites.

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Foxgloves would have made a beautiful spectacle nestled amongst our large steam bent bench and added pops of natural colour to the stand.
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