• Facebook icon

Sandhurst Garden Design


We had an amazing time at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May.  What an experience, exhibiting our Container Garden The Mary Anning Space to Learn Garden at the show considered to be the pinnacle of horticultural excellence!

After months of planning and filling in countless forms, we arrived on site for the first time on Friday 12th May.  Original Landscapes based in Dorset agreed to install the hard landscaping elements of the garden and they soon set about re-creating the imagined cliffs of Black Venn at Charmouth using blue Lias and Purbeck stone supplied by Allgreen of Yeovil, that had been already delivered to site and was waiting for us.

At the base on the cliff, we positioned the cast of a Plesiosaurus fossil in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary’s discovery of this marine reptile.  Craig Chivers of Natural Selection Fossils did a fantastic job arranging the bones and it looked amazing with the replica wicker basket used by Mary, weaved by Wheatcroft Willow and an archaeological hammer placed next to it.

Plesiosaurus fossil in Mary Anning garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

We were generously sponsored in kind by Allgreen of Yeovil who supplied the landscaping materials including the magnificent tree stumps I used as my containers, and The Gardens Group who have supported us from the start of my garden design career, who supplied a quantity of native ferns for the design.

Monday saw our second delivery of materials from Allgreen.  The moss-covered tree stumps and the steppingstones arrived on site.    The steppingstones looked fabulous.  Dan Anderson of Bespoke Letter Cutting had expertly engraved them with the tongue-twister She Sells Seashells on the Seashore, reportedly written about Mary Anning.

We watched with our hearts in our mouths as the on-site forklift driver carefully positioned the tree stumps on the garden and then the steppingstones which nestled perfectly between the architectural roots of the stumps.

On Tuesday Andrew and I headed back to Yeovil on the coach to collect the large specimen plants we hired from Desert to Jungle, Henlade, that would sit in the tree stumps.  Desert to Jungle loaned us a Dicksonia Antarctica tree fern, a Pseudopanax and a Wollemia Pine, and these plants combined with the native ferns provided the Jurassic effect planting to complement the design.

Our friend Alex Loudoun played a very important role in bringing the garden to life.  He had the arduous job of hollowing out the tree stumps to create the planting space for the plants and this was a labour of love.

Alex drove us in the transit back to Chelsea on Wednesday which allowed Andrew and I time to catch our breath before we started to plant the garden ready for Assessing on Saturday.

Judging of the gardens is done over two days.  Assessment on Saturday and Judging on Sunday, but we would have to wait until Tuesday for Medals Day so we would be kept in suspense for a while.

Mary Anning garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

Monday is Press Day at Chelsea and when the celebrities and Royalty visit the show.  We were joined by three pupils from Charmouth Primary School who kindly agreed to take part in a photocall.  They were amazing and the press photographers took lots of photographs of them.

Press Day would not be Press Day without celebrities.  We invited Ben Fogle, Elle Harrison, Geoff Brazier, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, and Jim Broadbent to have their photograph taken standing in the garden and they were all happy to oblige, great memories for the photo album!

Later in the day was the Royal Visit.  Sadly, the King and Queen did not visit our garden in person, but as they drove out of the showground they waved as they drove past our garden.

Tuesday is Medals Day.  We waited anxiously by our garden and at 8am we were delighted to be awarded a Bronze Medal.

Bronze medal awarded at the Chelsea Flower Show 2023

Tuesday the show opened to RHS members and then public days until Saturday.  We had lovely comments about the garden and people seemed to connect with the idea the garden was a learning space and were keen to learn more about Mary Anning.

The footfall indicated 30,000 people visited the show on each of the five days so lots of people to talk to in the sunshine.  The days on site were long.  We arrived at 7am each day to water the plants and prepare the garden for the day ahead and we were required to stay on our garden until the show closed at 8pm when we watered the plants again before we headed back to our apartment for some food and bed.

I am pleased to report that The Mary Anning Space to Learn Garden will live on.  Jointly with Allgreen and The Gardens Group we have donated elements of the garden to Charmouth Primary School for the children to enjoy for generations to come.

Finally, would I do a garden at Chelsea Flower Show again?  Yes, I would, but please can I have a holiday first!

All Blogs:


© Julie Haylock, Sandhurst Garden Design 2024 all rights reserved