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RHS Chelsea 2019: Sturgeon’s M&G Garden

RHS Chelsea 2019: Sturgeon’s M&G Garden

The M&G Garden. Credit: John Campbell/

Andy Sturgeon brings an ecological woodland garden to the show this year


Andy Sturgeon FSGD was feeling the pressure as he embarked on the build of his ninth Chelsea Flower Show garden - his second for show sponsor M&G Investments. With seven Golds and two Best in Shows behind him, he knew he had to bring something special to wow the judges once again. His 2019 woodland garden does just that.

The design’s concept is ‘ecological succession’ – how plants colonise habitats, starting with pioneer species, such as algae, that make their homes on barren lava flows, rocks and sand dunes. These are followed by more complex plants and trees as the soil profiles deepen, after which ‘secondary succession’, caused by an event such as a forest fire, ushers in more new plants.

He is using primitive plants like mosses, restios and ferns to reference the early pioneers, and the woodland includes three huge Carpinus betulus and 16 Nothofagus antarctica. Huge burnt timber sculptures by Johnny Woodford reference a landscape regenerated by fire, and a series of square landings lead to seating areas overlooking the garden. A stream trickles alongside the stonework before reaching a pool in a woodland glade.

The plant palette is mostly green and focuses on form and texture, but also features many colourful jewels displayed against the charred timber. Crûg Farm has provided some special plants, including Gunnera killipiana and Beesia calthifolia, which most visitors to the flower show will never have seen before.

Sturgeon says the charred oak has been the most challenging aspect of the design. “To get the charred effect, we used the ancient Japanese technique known here in the UK as Shou Sugi Ban, which draws the sap from the timber to preserve it. I’m also excited about the Great Tew Ironstone platforms, which have provided another outing for my obsession with giant crazy paving.”

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