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Chelsea 18: Catherine MacDonald’s Seedlip Garden

Chelsea 18: Catherine MacDonald’s Seedlip Garden

The Seedlip Garden. Designed by: Dr Catherine MacDonald. Sponsored by: Seedlip. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Photo: The RHS


It’s all about peas for the designer’s Space to Grow garden 


Hoping to match the gold medal she won last year for sponsor Seedlip, Pre-Registered SGD Member Dr Catherine MacDonald is back with a second garden for the non-alcoholic spirit company. Her 2018 design is a celebration of the humble garden pea, a key ingredient in one of company’s drink products.

The family of Seedlip’s founder has farmed peas in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire for many generations and he was keen to bring this versatile vegetable to the public’s attention. “We also wanted to celebrate the 19th-century monk Gregor Mendel, who discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance through his research into pea plants,” MacDonald explains.


Dr Catherine MacDonald


“My PhD is in genetics, and the whole garden is laid out on a 4m by 4m grid, which reflects how you would present the results diagrammatically in a plan- breeding experiment. The garden is also in homage to the late American pea breeder, Dr Calvin Lamborn, whose unusual varieties of sugar snaps and snow peas are being grown for the garden. These peas have beautiful red, yellow and purple pods, colours I have included in the other flowers in the garden, such as lupins.” In addition, the garden hosts the launch of two new pea varieties bred by Dr Lamborn.

Structural elements in the ‘Seedlip Garden’ include a ‘Peavillion’ fabricated by Outdoor Design, with a pea-shaped porthole and pea-shoot lawn roof; and water features made from Urbis bowls. For height, she is including the Japanese pagoda tree, Styphnolobium japonicum, and the carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua, both of which belong to the Fabaceae family. There are also green-toned stepping stones and open grilles under-planted with low-growing plants.

“One of the challenges has been to create a garden using just one plant family,” she says. “I don’t have grasses to provide the softness that I often rely on in my designs. But it is amazing how diverse this group of plants is, and the brief has pushed me to be more creative. I think visitors will be surprised by the colours and forms in the design.”


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