Speaking on BBC Two's coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which he co-presents with fellow Gardeners' World star Joe Swift, gardener, writer and broadcaster Monty had nothing but praise for Sarah's naturalistic-style garden which showcases craftsmanship, sustainability, and the beauty of wild and natural environments.
Monty said the garden was 'calm and poised, incredibly elegant, and I think very strong'. In fact, it's a garden he plans on visiting daily for the remainder of the week: 'I have to say that I'm coming away feeling inspired, surprised and delighted by seeing this, and I know that this is going to be one of those gardens that every single day that I come back in this week, I'm going to rush here to see it again, it really is that good.'
The Nurture Landscapes Garden takes its atmosphere and inspiration from the paintings of Cedric Morris and the plants collected and bred by Cedric at his garden at Benton End, Hadleigh. The artist and plantsman became famous for both breeding and painting bearded iris, growing around 1,000 new seedlings each year and producing at least 90 named varieties.
In Nurture Landscapes, Sarah used climbers supported by reclaimed timber and rope to frame views into and through the garden. The watercolour-like colours (plums, mauves, olive yellow, creamy browns) create a distinctive palette, particularly the dusky shades of irises and the tall burgundy aeonium spires which stand out against the subtle pink backdrop. Meanwhile, the saplings, grasses, and characterful trees hint at semi-abandonment.
So, what makes this garden stand out for Monty?
'I've been coming to Chelsea for a very long time and I'm always looking for something that's going to stop me in my tracks, that's just going to redefine everything that I thought I knew, and make me see the world with fresh eyes, and I think this is one of those gardens,' he said.
Monty outllined three things that stood out on immediate inspection.
1) The muted colour palette
'The colours are extraordinarily unusual for a Chelsea garden,' said Monty. 'They're muted, there are pinks and apricots and greys and touches of mauve. And it spreads through from the planting, which is dominated by these wonderful irises from Benton End with very unusual colours, but it goes through in every single aspect.
'Whether it's the aggregate on the floor, the hard landscaping, the tables, the pots, the bowls, the water features – all of which have been made using recycled waste material and then bound together, and that gives it a constancy and a fluidity, which is really exciting and unusual.'
2) The straw-cob walls as a backdrop to the planting
'The walls are made out of straw bales and then lime rendered and painted. And of course, when you use lime wash and lime, you don't get a consistent colour,' explained Monty. 'It changes when it's wet, it changes as it dries, different colours will dry and change at different rates, and combine that with the planting, this palette is so subtle, and so muted, and yet really strong.'
3) Less is more
'The other thing that is very unusual and striking is the confidence to do just a little,' Monty concludes. 'There's not too much of anything. The planting is spaced out, the pruning is open, you can see through, you can look through plants, look through branches. You have these wonderful Scots pines, pruned to look like a stone pine, and then just touches of richness at the end – the aeoniums at the back which are really strong but planted into the ground. And that sense of holding back actually adds real power to the garden.'
Sarah Price's Nurture Landscapes Garden was awarded a Gold medal by the judges. View all the gardens here.
• The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023, sponsored by the Newt in Somerset, runs from 23rd – 27th May. Visit rhs.org.uk for more information and sign up to become an RHS Member for reduced rate tickets to RHS flower shows.
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