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RHS Chelsea 2019: Perkins’ Facebook Garden

RHS Chelsea 2019: Perkins’ Facebook Garden

The Facebook Garden. Credit: John Campbell/


For Joe Perkins first solo design, he has focused on the idea of connectivity


Joe Perkins MSGD has a wealth of experience project-managing Chelsea show gardens for other designers, but The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen in the Space to Grow category is his design debut.

It is also the first Chelsea garden to be sponsored by a social media company. He approached the organisation with his design idea, and “the company bought into the concept of the garden straight away and have allowed me to develop the design without any conditions,” he explains. Perkins’ concept stems from his own experience as a father of three young boys. He uses social media for his business, but he is also interested in how young people spend their time online and how they view their use of social media. “It’s an important debate, and Facebook wants to use the garden to have conversations about how young people are spending their time online – both the opportunities and the challenges.”

Taking inspiration from family holidays to the coastline of northern Spain, his contemporary garden is instilled with the rugged, weathered character of this striking landscape. The coast, he says, is a good metaphor for the garden’s message, since water connects us all, and the coastal environment is constantly changing and evolving, just like online communities. “Coastal plants are also specialists, tolerating wind, sun and salt, so you could say they have shared interests in the same way that online communities and groups do.”

The garden includes pools, jagged rock formations – made from stone sourced from Scotland – and a timber deck crafted from reclaimed sea defences. Working with Toby Clayton of Hot Metal Engineering, Perkins also designed a sculptural copper wave-like canopy that arcs over the seating area and references both the idea of connectivity and the industrial heritage of technology.

He is using plants adapted to coastal areas worldwide, contrasting the foliage of Leucophyta brownie, Sedum palmeri and Aeonium arboretum, and including statement plants, such as agapanthus, agave, Opuntia humifusa, Euphorbia x pasteurii and Poncirus trifoliata. Pinus sylvestris and Pistacia lentiscus, which add height and further structure.

“Plants are always unpredictable, so this was the area of most concern, but I have the experience and skills of the teams at Kelways and The Outdoor Room to rely on, and one thing I’ve learned about Chelsea gardens over the years is that they’re always a massive team effort – they simply can’t be done alone.”

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