Christopher Bradley Hole makes a comeback with Telegraph Garden
Exclusive interview with The Telegraph Garden designer
The Telegraph Garden
Sponsored by The Telegraph
Designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole
With an impressive clutch of five Chelsea gold medals (two were Best Show Gardens) we are thrilled to talk to one of the most respected names in garden design, back at Chelsea with a garden for The Telegraph after an eight-year break. We asked Christopher Bradley-Hole why he’s been away so long.
You’re back, why such a big gap?
I have been very busy and time marches on. There have been many invitations and opportunities but I felt I didn’t really have time to give it the full attention that is needed in order to create a new idea for Chelsea.
Telegraph video - wood charring
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Behind-the-scenes video of ancient wood charring techniques
Telegraph video - tree felling
The Telegraph Chelsea garden 2013
In 1997 you landed Best Show Garden with your ‘Latin Garden’ for The Daily Telegraph. Did it make a difference that The Daily Telegraph asked you this year?
Well, yes. I have very happy memories of the two Chelsea gardens I made for the Telegraph. They were landmarks in my career.
Do you have show garden ideas stored up ready to unleash at Chelsea?
I am always thinking of new ideas and a visit to Chelsea always provokes new thoughts. But this year’s garden is a response to this moment in time and is a distillation of special interests over the past couple of years. When I was looking at gardens in Japan a couple of years ago, I remember thinking then that if I took another Chelsea commission it would have a Japanese influence.
You are known for your intellectual approach to garden making, but on paper the influences for this garden – the making of the English landscape, the Japanese approach to garden making and abstract art – seem a challenging mix?
Actually I think it is a natural mix. Although the cultures of England and Japan appear to be contrasting, I have been very interested in some of the similarities of design approach of two island nation races. The garden I have designed is an interpretation of the English woodland seen from the air. It is an abstract composition in the same way that, for example, the Ryoan-ji garden in Kyoto appears to be of the Japanese landscape.
What do you think visitors will appreciate most about The Telegraph Garden?
I hope it will appear different. I have noticed recently that many of the gardens at Chelsea, while achieving a very high standard, have become quite similar to one another, and I think it is time for new ideas so that people will maybe look at gardens in a new way. I hope also that we will achieve a calm simplicity through good-quality natural materials and native planting. The boundary wall is of English green oak that has been charred, which is a traditional practice, effective for preserving the wood. I have used hazels - quite ordinary native trees, but they’ve been pruned here in an interesting way. I am keen to make the most of simple components.
The Daily Telegraph is a committed sponsor at Chelsea Flower Show. Why do you think it is such an enthusiastic presence?
It is ‘the’ gardening newspaper. I think it’s the central reference point for gardeners from all areas of the gardening spectrum because the range of its content is so broad and it covers issues seriously and in depth.
Have you made any reference to the centenary anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show in your design?
I was very interested to find out what the first Chelsea was like. In fact there was quite an interest in Japanese plants and design then, so I think it’s appropriate that there’s a continued interest now. It’s also a good time to raise awareness of the English landscape and the current challenges to some of the plants that play such a large part in it.
So there’s a message?
I would like the garden to help to draw attention to the importance of our landscape and our understanding and enjoyment of it. It is precious and needs our appreciation and support.