Chelsea Flower Show: Dan Pearson wins top prize for recreation of Chatsworth trout stream

The designer returned after an 11-year absence to take Best Show Garden

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The Independent Online

Garden designer Dan Pearson, who returned to the Chelsea Flower Show this year after an absence of 11 years, has won Best Show Garden and a gold medal for his recreation of a trout stream at Chatsworth, the Derbyshire home of the Duke of Devonshire.

The award was announced by the Royal Horticultural Society, the organisers of the yearly show, along with the rest of the medal awards for both the show gardens and the nurseries exhibiting in the Great Pavilion.

Chelsea is the most prestigious flower show in the world and features the cream of British gardening along with a raft of international exhibits, such as Kamelia Bin Zaal’s Beauty of Islam garden, and her Beauty of Kranji garden, inspired by a suburb of Singapore.

Pearson is one of Britain’s most respected garden designers, but while his clients might be upscale (the show garden is sponsored by Laurent-Perrier champagne), his approach is very green – in every sense of the word.

His designs are typically naturalistic and relaxed, but this artless effect is underpinned by fantastic attention to detail.


His Chelsea garden was inspired by the Crystal Palace designer Joseph Paxton’s rockery, built for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1842, and even the weeds were specially grown, so the plants would be at different stages of growth as they would in the wild.

It looks as if someone has picked up a bit of English countryside and dropped it down in the centre of London.

The design features a stream meandering through grasses and wildflowers – such as primulas, campion and golden alexanders – overlooked by massive piles of stone. In Paxton’s original rockery, the largest stone, known as the Wellington Rock is nearly 14m high.

Naturalistic planting featured in several of the gold-medal winning gardens, including the Brewin Dolphin garden designed by Darren Hawkes, the Cloudy Bay garden by brothers Harry and David Rich, and the L’Occitane garden, which evoked a back garden in the Mediterranean town of Grasse, capital of the perfume industry.

Another gold medal winner was the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw, which will be recreated in Poplar, east London, after the show ends as part of a community garden project.

Garden Designer Dan Pearson, second left, talks with the Duke, second right, and Duchess of Devonshire, right, after his garden won the title of Best Show Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (Reuters)

Sentebale, designed by Matt Keightley to highlight the work of Prince Harry’s Lesotho children’s charity, won a silver-gilt medal (the second-highest award) as did Bin Zaal’s Beauty of Islam garden. The Chelsea show gardens are not judged against each other, but according to how well the judges feel the designer has fulfilled his or her brief.

The Dark Matter Garden, designed by Howard Miller in collaboration with the National Schools Observatory, won Best Fresh Garden.

In the Great Pavilion, Hillier Nurseries celebrated their 70th gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Based in Hampshire, the nursery was founded 150 years ago, and their 180-acre gardens, established by Sir Harold Hillier in 1953, form one of the world’s most important plant collections.

David Austin Roses are regular gold medal winners at Chelsea, and Claire Austin, daughter of David, also won gold for her display of bearded irises.

Victoria Summerley is the author of ‘Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’, published by Frances Lincoln, price £20.