It’s Chelsea week, the garden world’s Oscars, where everything floral is primped, primed and put under the spotlight in the hope of winning a coveted Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal. Best in Show is the prize of prizes and this year it’s been awarded to Dan Pearson Studios for his evocation of a trout stream and rockery in Chatsworth, Derbyshire. It’s extraordinary how he has managed to make the space look effortless, just a piece of the English landscape plonked in the middle of London. However, brilliant though he is, this is not my favourite garden, that coveted prize goes to The Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse, sponsored by L’Occitane and designed by James Basson.
The story this garden tells is that of the perfume industry in Grasse which has been in decline for several years and many of the traditional plantations have become overgrown, but now with the support of ecologically-sensitive companies like L’Occitane, the industry is experiencing a significant renaissance. The garden is designed to reflect this with historic elements and a more naturalistic view to represent the history of the perfume industry combined with an emerging, more tended feel that shows the present day growing importance of Grasse for perfume.The planting is designed to be aromatic, a sensation of smell, recreating the Provençal hillsides and the history of the perfume industry and includes Osmanthus, Iris, bergamot, lavender and thyme. Fig and rosemary hedges provide both scent and reflect their historical use for drying clothes and infusing them with their floral scent.
I loved the story telling in this piece of work and the attention to detail was mind boggling. It’s not easy to make a garden in decline look wonderful. For me this was a very human garden, unlike the Chatsworth one which speaks of the grandiose power and beauty of nature, it’s a garden I want to be in, to nurture and have fun in. There are gardens here for all tastes and personalities – I’d be interested to hear which ones caught your eye this year and why. Here’s the link to get an idea of them all: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/2015/articles/show-gardens-2015