RHS Chelsea Flower Show

23 – 27 May 2017

Hartley Botanic designer Interview

2016 sees Hartley Botanic’s first show garden at Chelsea Flower Show, designed by Catherine Macdonald, in which their glasshouse takes centre stage. RHS online talked to the designer to find out more…

Catherine Macdonald – my Chelsea Flower Show

Catherine-MacDonaldYou’ve designed a show garden on your own this year, having shared the credit in the past, does it feel more pressurised?
Although I am named as sole designer, I’ve never felt on my own with this project. I have worked closely with Hartley Botanic over the years and they are a tremendous support. Also my day job is designing for Landform, who are extremely experienced Chelsea contractors and are involved in this garden.

When you say involved, aren’t they building the garden?
They will, of course, oversee the construction, but we are also going to be using a WorldSkills landscaping team, which is very exciting and will give some young people a really positive work experience.

It goes without saying that the focus of the garden is the glass structure – it’s not just your everyday greenhouse though, is it?
It’s true that Hartley Botanic are probably most associated with their traditional greenhouses, but a large part of their business is actually about bespoke structures. This specially-designed glasshouse will appear to be emerging from a pool of water. It also has a glass floor so you see the water flowing beneath. Having the glasshouse look as if it’s floating creates a feeling of serenity, which is key to the atmosphere I wanted to generate.

What do you think visitors will enjoy most about your garden?
As well as the ‘floating glasshouse’, I think they’ll enjoy the way we’ve used British native woodland plants outside the glasshouse, but planted in a garden style. That’s really the most challenging part for me, but it was important to do something a little different and show how beautiful some of our wild plants are and how they can be used in a really attractive, garden-worthy way.

Hartley Botanic have been found in the trade section of the show in the past. What made them cross over into the show garden arena?
Their trade exhibits have always been large and I’ve designed many myself for them, collecting a few Best Trade Stand Awards on the way. I believe they thought it was time to promote themselves in a different way. They are keen to showcase their British design and engineering skills, especially in their new Opus range of glasshouses, of which our show garden structure is the first. The Opus has been designed expressly to blend harmoniously with its surroundings and our show garden will demonstrate this to the Chelsea visitors perfectly!

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