THOMAS HOBLYN BRINGS AN ITALIANATE GARDEN TO RHS CHELSEA FOR ARTHRITIS RESEARCH UK
DescriptionFor his fifth year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, award-winning landscape and garden designer Thomas Hoblyn will create a show garden inspired by the great Renaissance gardens of Italy for leading research charity Arthritis Research UK.
Inspired by the stunning gardens at Villa Lante and Villa d’Este the Arthritis Research UK Garden will capture the drama, formality and beauty of the Renaissance gardens. Whilst Hoblyn has retained all classical ideals of order associated with these historic Italian gardens, he has stripped away the flamboyance and decadence to reveal a simpler and more minimal design.
The garden explores the Renaissance obsession of man controlling nature, in particular their desire to tame wild rivers to create spectacular fountains, cascades and jets. Hoblyn is working with water expert Andrew Ewing to create three water features to replicate the ingenious trickery and technical engineering that was employed to great effect in the period. Linked throughout the garden, the water features – a long fountain seat set against a backdrop of 30 powerful jets, a water cascade and a shallow mirror pool with infinity edge – will be authentically powered by gravity and hydrostatic power.
The water cascade, inspired by the Fontana dell’Ovato (oval fountain) at the Villa d’Este, is an isolated decorative element in the vista and a stunning backdrop that visually links separate parts of the garden and draws visitors in.
In a nod to the Renaissance quest for divine proportions and perfect symmetry, Hoblyn has designed the garden using the principles of the Golden Section. A series of raised beds and gently sloping paths and stairs are aligned to compliment the mathematically proportioned water elements, whilst a row of evenly arranged, eight meter high Cyprus trees will tower majestically over the garden.
Hoblyn was keen to reflect the look of the Renaissance gardens today, which is very much a story of Nature defiantly back in control. So by way of disrupting the main axis of symmetry, and as a gesture of his admiration to Mother Nature, he has deliberately incorporated a beautifully weathered Cork Oak at the entrance to the garden.
Travatine stone from Tivoli, close to Villa D'Este, has been chosen for the hard landscaping elements. With finishes ranging from rough hewn for feature walls and finely honed for the sophisticated mirror pool, it is a further representation of man's desire to control nature.
The planting is decidedly Mediterranean with plants sourced from Spain and Italy for authenticity. Although the scheme references the original Renaissance ideals of precision planting with avenues of Cupressus, clipped topiary, knots and parterres, Hoblyn has interpreted it in a more naturalistic way. Self-seeders will colonise less-trodden parts of the garden and prostrate herbs will hang down and soften walls, while naturalised parterres in each of the raised beds will weave like knotted ribbons through the scheme, clipped in a cloud-like way.
Hoblyn has specially commissioned Jekka McVicar to supply an inspiring selection of herbs for the garden, in particular Artemesia schmidtiana ‘Nana’ and Thymus ‘Jekka’ as well as the Nasturtium ‘Red Emperor’ which will be seen for the first time at RHS Chelsea and has been chosen to match the poppy used elsewhere in the garden. Other key plants include Fritillaria persica and Punica granatum Nanum
Traditional Mediterranean colours of silver and green foliaged herbs will form the base of the colour palette, with foliage colours rather than flower dominating. The orange-red of the poppies and nasturtiums will lift the scheme along with ribbons of burgundy Fritillaria weaving through the naturalised knots.
This will be the first time Arthritis Research UK, the charity leading the fight against arthritis, will stage a major show garden at RHS Chelsea. The garden’s ‘Renaissance’ theme was devised by the Charity to symbolise its own revival, as Chief Executive at Arthritis Research UK, Dr. Liam O’Toole explains: The Renaissance theme reflects so much about the organisation from the quest for knowledge in our research, to the ‘rebirth’ of the charity with a new brand and future goals. As we mark our 75th anniversary we believe now, more than ever, how important it is for us to promote our work in highlighting the negative impact of arthritis. The charity has never proactively promoted itself before and, as a result, awareness of arthritis is much lower than it should be, despite affecting 1 in 6 people in the UK. We are thrilled that we will be showcasing a garden at RHS Chelsea. We know that gardening is a favourite activity of many of our supporters and an important part of the lives of people with arthritis.
Designer Tom Hoblyn said: “I have long harboured an obsession for the Italian Renaissance gardens – the fascinating theory of controlling nature, the divine proportions and perfect symmetry, majestically portrayed against decadent architecture, truly captures my imagination. I was genuinely thrilled to be asked to design a Chelsea show garden for Arthritis Research UK and delighted that their insightful brief not only allowed me to satiate my love of all things Italian, but to highlight the very important work that the Charity does”