RHS Chelsea Flower Show

23 – 27 May 2017

Hugo Bugg – My Chelsea Flower Show

Hugo BuggTwo years ago, all eyes were on Hugo Bugg when, at 27, he became one of the youngest designers to take home a gold medal for a garden at Chelsea. This year he is back again with his second garden for the same sponsor, Royal Bank of Canada. RHS online caught up with him to find out more about his next appearance on the Chelsea stage.

Previous gardens for Royal Bank of Canada were very much rainwater-themed, including your own in 2014. This one looks rather different, can you explain a bit about your design?
Past gardens for Royal Bank of Canada have had a definite message for the public about the importance of managing rainwater in our towns and cities, which is in keeping with the goals of the RBC Blue Water Project™. This year, I wanted to celebrate water not just as a commodity, but as a culturally important element, especially in those parts of the world where people can’t afford to take it for granted.

How are you going to do that?
I’ve taken inspiration from the richly diverse pine landscape of the hills of northern Jordan, where I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years. It is an area with little rainfall but still supports many kinds of flora. So part of the message is about using the right plants for the right environment – in this case Mediterranean, drought-tolerant planting. I also wanted to focus on the symbolic qualities of water and its properties, so I looked at its geometry and used this to form the backbone of the design; for instance, I have included an icosahedral basalt stone mound, which is a platonic solid of 20 regular triangular faces, which represents the molecular structure of water.  The triangle is the symbol for water in many cultures around the world.

Regarding the planting, I understand you’re asking quite a lot from your nursery suppliers?
You’re quite right, I am! The planting list contains many plants native to Jordan and also found in the Dibeen habitat, most of which the nursery hadn’t come across before. They had to grow most from seed sourced from other Levantine countries, as Jordan isn’t really set up commercially in this way and doesn’t allow plant material to be taken out of the country. They are also growing around 8,000 plants, which is way more than usual. The planting will be a challenge – and one I’m looking forward to!

Can you give me some examples of the sort of plants you’re using?
Well, Sarcopoterium spinosum is a spiny shrub belonging to the rose family, which is common in the area, and I’m also using an iris, Iris nigricans, which is really dark purple-black and just happens to be the national flower of Jordan.

When we spoke to you in 2014 you appeared to be very composed about the prospect of your first Chelsea garden. Does your past achievement provide extra pressure this time round?
No, I don’t think so, not from a medal point of view anyway. There’s a pressure to deliver the design, but I have confidence in it. I’m very focused and tend not to be affected or influenced by what’s going on around me, so I can concentrate on making the garden I have in the back of my mind the best it can be.

Useful links

About Royal Bank of Canada
RBC Blue Water Project
RBC at Chelsea – looking back over the past five years
Full plant list (254kB pdf)
Create a piece of Chelsea in your own garden (248kB pdf)

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