For his first-ever show garden, Snow evokes ‘A South African Wine Estate’
Many designers work their way up to RHS Chelsea, creating gardens for the provincial shows first and then perhaps progressing to Hampton Court Palace before taking on the ultimate challenge. Not so for newcomer Pre-Registered SGD Member Jonathan Snow, who is bucking this trend by creating his first-ever show garden on Main Avenue with an ambitious evocation of a South African Wine Estate for sponsor Trailfinders.
Having worked for Arne Maynard and Tom Stuart-Smith MSGD before setting up on his own in 2008, Snow has seen these veterans in action, which he says gave him some idea of what would be involved.
Snow had the idea for the show garden two years ago when he and his wife travelled to South Africa on a wine-tasting trip. “We both fell in love with landscape and the Cape Dutch architecture, and as soon as I got home I started to sketch out ideas for a show garden,” he says. “I asked a few wine companies to sponsor the garden but they had insufficient funds, and then last year Trailfinders stepped in and it started to look like the garden would really come to fruition. I was lucky because the Cape winelands are among Trailfinders’ most popular destinations.”
The garden focuses on a traditional Cape Dutch homestead with a pretty parterre garden, typical of those seen in the wine regions of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Through a gate in a low whitewashed wall is a vineyard – rows of gnarled vines will have a cover crop of lupins, clover and mustard planted between them.
Beyond the vineyard, Snow is including quartzite rocks and fynbos plants, including proteas, ericas, restios to represent the wild, shrubby landscape of the mountainous Western Cape region. “Quite a few fynbos plants are actually well known to us in the UK as garden plants, including gladioli, agapanthus, pelargoniums and kniphofias, and I will be repeating these in the homestead garden, mixing them with other South African plants, such as dietes and dieramas, as well as more traditional cottage garden plants like roses, salvias, and astrantias. I want to create a homestead garden planting palette of softer tones and fresh green growth, compared with the leathery leaved, occasionally bright colours of fynbos vegetation.”
Snow is also depicting recently burnt fynbos. Veld fires occur regularly and help to reinvigorate the landscape, as bright bulbs, seedlings, and fresh grasses push through the old blackened vegetation. “The plants are coming from all over the world, including Italy, Spain and Cornwall, and we have sowed 10,000 seeds, sent over by specialist suppliers in South Africa,” he says. “Luckily none are affected by the Xylella bacterium, so we don’t have to worry about the new RHS show restrictions on imports.”