Next Monday sees the first public day of this year’s Chelsea Flower show. One of the most popular events of the season, Chelsea always provides writers with a wealth of material, and one of my favourite stories – and gardens – of 2015 is Laurent-Perrier’s.
This year they have worked in collaboration with Chatsworth House, the home of the dukes of Devonshire, to create a spectacular garden in the rather difficult triangular plot of the show ground (detail above). The partnership developed when Laurent-Perrier became the house pour of Chatsworth, or as the Duke of Devonshire put it to me on a tour of the grounds, ‘We had an introduction to Laurent-Perrier and we thought this was a great opportunity for us to do something we have never ever done before and never thought of doing before.’
Working in conjunction with award-winning garden designer Dan Pearson (a childhood favourite of mine from Gardeners’ World), they are bringing Chatsworth’s Trout Stream to Chelsea. The Trout Stream is one of Sir Joseph Paxton’s creations in Chatsworth’s landscape, but unlike many of his monumental interventions – like the Great Conservatory or the towering rocks of the Chatsworth Rockery – the Trout Stream is more of a ‘doodle’, gently meandering down the hill and leading visitors through the gentle bends, soft planting and more intimate landscape architecture.
The Chatsworth Trout Stream
In the context of the vast landscapes of Chatsworth, this area of the garden is most suitable for transporting to the show grounds of Chelsea. As Pearson explained to me on a rainy visit to Chatsworth before the first warm light of spring had reached the Peak District, a Chelsea garden ‘has to be inward looking as you have so much competitive interference all around’.
For any garden to be successful it must be able to transport visitors away from the hustle and bustle of London. The Laurent-Perrier/Chatsworth garden intends to do just that – take people to a quiet corner of this great estate.
There is a lovely synergy between these two institutions: they both have a clear sense of place and heritage. Even more interesting is the dedication both are showing to sustainability.
David Hesketh, MD of Laurent-Perrier UK, told me that this will be the first Laurent-Perrier garden to have a future after the Chelsea Flower Show. All of the plants used at Chelsea will be taken back to Chatsworth and incorporated in to the area surrounding the Trout Stream. In fact, many of the plants and features will be sourced from Chatsworth in the first place, before being driven to Chelsea and then back again.
Over ten vehicle-loads of rock have been taken from the grounds and several plants, including the vibrant yellow /Rhododendron luteum/ (‘It will be a well travelled rhododendron’), have been taken from the Trout Stream area, cultivated and transported to London to form part of the show garden.
Chatsworth’s towering rocks
Country houses need to diversify to maintain their visitor numbers – and their coffers. Chatsworth’s involvement with Chelsea Flower Show is a fine example of how these great estates are trying to reach out to new visitors. They hope that people will see the garden at Chelsea and be encouraged to make the journey to see the real thing. As the Duke of Devonshire says, he wants the Chelsea garden to remind people that ‘you don’t need a passport to get to Derbyshire.’
The plants moved from Chelsea and installed around the Trout Stream will not be flagged up, as the Duke says, like some ‘sponsorship of a roundabout’, but rather in a horticulturally sensitive way. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a flight of Laurent-Perrier (brut non-vintage champagne, cuvée rosé champagne and demi-sec non-vintage champagne) as part of the Laurent-Perrier afternoon tea, served in Chatsworth’s Cavendish restaurant.
This garden, and indeed the collaboration between these two great houses – one country, one champagne – promises to be one of the most spectacular gardens at this year’s show. With both Dan Pearson and Laurent-Perrier’s award-winning form (it has three Best in Shows and thirteen Gold Medals at RHS Chelsea), I would not be surprised if this garden added more silverware to both of their cabinets.
Laurent-Perrier are the official champagne supplier of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show