Covent Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2017
Covent Garden has been reimagined as a breathtaking Show Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, bringing the much-loved part of London to the world-renowned event for the first time.
‘500 Years of Covent Garden’ has been designed by award-winning garden designer Lee Bestall to showcase the area’s rich horticultural heritage. The garden celebrates Covent Garden’s early roots as a fruit orchard until the 16th century and later as a flower market, as well as the iconic architecture it is known for today, including the Market Building.
The central feature of the garden includes a mature, 60 year-old apple tree, harking back not only to the early beginnings of ‘Convent Garden’ as an orchard, belonging to and supplying the monks’ table at Westminster Abbey, but also to the 300 year-old provenance of the neighbourhood as a fruit and flower market. Flowering herbaceous plants reflects the colours of apple blossom, while large steel structures will reflect the distinctive arches of Covent Garden’s Grade II listed Market Building.
Reclaimed cobble pathways guide visitors into the centre of the garden, just as the surrounding streets do into Covent Garden’s Piazza. A central seating area, paved with reclaimed York stone, provides a place to sit and relax, inspired by the social and modern dining environment of the Piazza which, as London’s first public square, was designed to bring people together.
Lee Bestall, garden designer, said; “I’m incredibly excited about bringing retired orchard trees to Chelsea to help tell the fascinating backstory of Covent Garden through a beautiful, relaxing space designed for people to share a special moment in together – just like the Covent Garden we know and love today”.
Following Chelsea Flower Show, Covent Garden will bring parts of the Show Garden back to the historic Piazza for the public to enjoy over the Summer.
The ‘500 Years of Covent Garden’ Show Garden is sponsored in partnership with Sir Simon Milton Foundation, the Westminster based charity which champions opportunities for young and old.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs Tuesday 23rd – Saturday 27th May, 8am-8pm
Tickets can be purchased from the RHS Chelsea website
Lychnis Flos – Cuculi Abla ‘White Ragged Robin’
Digitalis ‘Dalmation White’
Astrantia major ‘Alba’
Bunium bulbocastanum ‘Great pignut’
Dryopteris wallichiana ‘Alpine wood fern’
Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Hart’s tongue fern’
Asarum europaeum ‘European Wild Ginger’
Ammi majus ‘Bullwort’
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’
Hosta plantaginea var japonica ‘Japanese fragrant plantain lily’
Rodgersia aesculifolia ‘Chestnut-leaved rodgersia’
Tierella ‘Sky Rocket’
Scabiosa ochroleuca ‘pale yellow scabious’
Agapanthus ‘Lily of the Nile’
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’
Rhubarb ‘Grandads Favorite’
Malus domestica ‘Schone van Boskoop’
Taxus baccata spheres
Carpinus betulus hedging
Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Chinese dogwood’
Rosa sombreuil (climber)
Rosa ‘Little White Pet’
Rosa ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’
Rosa ‘English Miss’
Roots of the Garden
The Sir Simon Milton Foundation Garden is inspired by the rich heritage of Covent Garden, from land known as ‘Convent Garden’ in the thirteenth century to the vibrant shopping and dining destination it is today. The title of the garden draws from the 16th century when Henry VIII granted the land to the Earl of Bedford and the story of Covent Garden as we know it began.
The area now known as Covent Garden was divided across orchard, arable, meadow and pasture land, delineated by a thatched mud wall to the south of the ‘Long Acre’. The garden had existed in this way for centuries, growing apples, pears, cherries, medlars, plums and nuts in the orchard, which supplied the monks’ table at Westminster Abbey. In 1536 the garden was confiscated by Henry VIII, who granted the land to the Earl of Bedford.In 1631 esteemed architect Inigo Jones was commissioned to build London’s first residential square based on the formal style of an Italian Piazza, and by the 1660’s (after the Great Fire of London), the central area of the Piazza became the home of market trader stalls. With the growth of the market, the character of Covent Garden changed from a fashionable residentialaddress for the aristocracy to a bohemian resort of coffee houses and theatres for artists, actors and writers, from Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys to Charles Dickens.
Charles Fowler’s neo-classical building gave new shape to the market, gradually expanding into the surrounding streets and replacing the earlier residents with fruiterers, florists, flower girls, barrow boys, costermongers, porters and the market traders, setting the scene so many recognise in the backdrop of ‘My Fair Lady’.
Over time Covent Garden became synonymous with performance, from being the birthplace of ‘Punch & Judy’ shows (as recorded by Samuel Pepys in the 1660s) to the stage for street entertainment that it still is today. As well as the place Eliza Doolittle could be found selling flowers in ‘My Fair Lady’, Covent Garden was immortalised in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy’. The market itself continued to function as London’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1966 when the market closed – reopening in Nine Elms in 1974. In 2006, Capco became landlord and steward to the Covent Garden estate, transforming the neighbourhood into a world-class destination for shopping, dining and culture while celebrating its heritage as the beating heart of London
Lee Bestall – Garden Designer
Lee’s garden design story began after graduating from university, when he happened upon the opportunity for eight people to escape their normal lives and train with Diarmuid Gavin to become garden designers – all the while being filmed by a BBC crew for a documentary following the process. For Lee this was the opportunity of a lifetime, a dream come true, to get the relevant training and launchpad for a career change.
Two years, several telephone interviews and a two day audition at Kew Gardens later, he became one of eight students finally selected to feature on the programme. Thirteen years on Lee runs a successful design studio in Derbyshire employing six people and designing projects with budgets from £20k to over £1 million. One thing hasn’t changed since day one, Lee’s love of plants! He has a great team who, like him, love having fun creating fabulous spaces for people to enjoy.
This is Lee’s third garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and the first time he has designed a Show Garden on Main Avenue. Lee commented how nice it was to be working with the RHS again – an organisation he feels has succeeded due to their high standards and attention to detail
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