Stone at Chelsea Flower Show

For the first time, the RHS awarded a prize for the best constructed garden. It was won by Swatton Landscape for Cleve West's M&G Garden pictured here. Stonemason and dry stone waller Max Knowle, who often works with Sharon and Steven Swatton, played his part in the construction of the hard landscaping, which is substantially Forest of Dean sandstone.

There was a lot of natural stone in the hard landscaping of the gardens at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show at the end of May, demonstrating just what an important contribution it makes to landscape design.

The most unusual contribution was a huge cube of Portuguese granite in the Antithisis of Sarcophogi garden designed by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze and built by Chris Holland Landscapes using the granite block supplied by the garden's sponsor, stone wholesaler The Marble & Granite Cente in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.

The cube, specially cut for the garden, started out as a 44-tonne block that then had the centre of it cut out using a wire saw. The garden was planted inside the cube of granite and is seen through holes in its side, drilled at different heights to accommodate most people and on two sides to provide different aspects.

Mirrors on two sides of the interior create the illusion that the inside is larger than the outside, Tardis-like.

Outside, one side of the block has been letterd in a fount designed by Gary Breeze that is intentionally unintelligible, creating a pattern, like when you see Greek or Russian writing. This is understandably writing even though the meaning of each word is not clear.

The rest of the garden is gravel with a heavyweight burnt oak fence along two sides, creating a deliberately barren area disgusing the planted garden hidden inside the block of granite. It won the Best Fresh Garden Award and a Gold Medal.

There was actually an award for the best constructed garden for the first time this year, which went to Steven and Sharon Swatton of Swatton Landscape in Chichester, Sussex, for their work on the M&G Garden designed by Cleve West and making extensive use of Forest of Dean sandstone. The Swatton's were helped, as they are on a lot of their gardens, by stonemason and dry stone waller Max Knowle.

There is more about the stone in the gardens at Chelsea in the July/August issue of Natural Stone Specialist magazine, out at the end of June, and, of course, there is plenty about the plants and the exhibition on the RHS website at the address below. And here is a short video from Chelsea Flower Show if you want a feel for it.