RHS Chelsea Flower Show

23 – 27 May 2017

Sarah Price – My Chelsea

Interview with the M&G Garden designer


Sarah PriceSarah Price is known for her naturalistic and painterly approach to garden design. She is coming back to Chelsea after a gap of six years to create The M&G Garden, and we wanted to know what lies behind her design…
What are you enjoying most about your return to the show?
I love the entire process, from taking my ideas and sketches, to working with such talented people to create my design. I have a great team around me and enjoy the camaraderie. Although it can be an anxious time as the garden takes shape, it’s also a huge adrenaline rush… I’m excited by the evolution from idea to finished garden.
What inspired you to expand on the idea of a place of repose?
It wasn’t one specific location. Instead it comes from lots of different moments visiting the Mediterranean and seeing quiet places and plants. I’m a visual sponge – these experiences seep in and create a bank of memories I have drawn on for my design.
What has influenced your planting?
I want to create a sunny Mediterranean feel, a place that has been there for some time. So I’ve moved outside my comfort zone towards a new palette of plants: plants that can also be grown in our gardens, and are drought tolerant for our warming climate. Seeing Claude Monet’s Water Lilies paintings, and how he used layers of paint to create texture also inspired me. And colour as well – he placed tangerine against pink, greens and blues. It’s incredibly beautiful and made me want the garden to be a celebration of colour, created through layers of plants.
Many may know your work through the extensive naturalistic plantings at the London Olympic Park.  How do you adapt this to the confines of a Chelsea show garden?

I have to think like a plant! I look at how they spread naturally, then experiment with them. Nature does its bit, but I have ultimate control in this space.
Why have you chosen materials taken straight from the earth?
These form the earthen landscape. Gravel used as mulch around plants will also be part of the earth walls, using age-old sustainable building methods. The colour will change depending on moisture levels, and the whole garden takes on a warm patina. I’ve chosen plants such as Lagerstromeria (crepe myrtle) to cast shadows against the backdrop.
What do you want visitors to experience when they see your garden?
I hope it makes them gasp! That’s the effect some Chelsea show gardens have had on me. My ambition is to create a spellbinding, colourful and beautiful garden, with unexpected views revealed as visitors walk around it.
What’s it been like working with M&G? What did they ask of your design?
M&G were very generous – I was given completely free rein. It’s wonderful knowing your sponsors have faith in you, and that helps you do your best. They’ve been fantastic; they embraced my design from the first meeting and have been really supportive.

Interview by Deborah Parker


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.