Chelsea 18: Matt Keightley’s RHS Feel Good Garden
The RHS Garden Feature is all about health and well-being this year
Having scooped three SGD Awards in February, Matt Keightley MSGD continues his ascent to the top with a spectacular unjudged feature garden for the RHS. Two-times winner of the RHS/BBC People’s Choice Award, Keightley was the obvious choice for the charity’s big show piece at the far end of Main Avenue.
His ‘RHS Feel Good Garden’ is inspired by the way that gardens, gardening and outdoor spaces can help to improve both mental and physical health. “I know myself how interacting with and becoming engrossed in a garden can relax you and provide sanctuary to quietly contemplate,” he says. “And I am hoping my garden will make people feel good when looking at it and, importantly, as they move through it. I’m very lucky this year because for the first time I’ve been allowed to encourage visitors into the space.”
The design includes sculpture, used for its textural qualities, and soft, elegant grass and perennial planting punctuated with evergreen forms that lead the visitor’s eye through the space. Signature plants include the white-flowered dogwood, Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Wisley Queen’, Anemone nemorosa and Camassia cusickii.
Bespoke timber benches and stools, designed by Keightley and inspired by cells, will be positioned in the margins of sweeping beds, providing opportunities to rest and take in the planting. “It is a garden where visitors should feel relaxed and completely at ease, enveloped by planting and soothed by the sound of moving water.”
The Chelsea garden is a reflection of a new design Keightley is working on for RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which although much larger (it is approximately one acre), applies similar principles and includes some of the same key features. “We are working with the Wisley team to lift and pot up plants and trees from the RHS garden, which are currently being cared for by the students there before they are used at Chelsea. We will then return them to Wisley, so it’s a wonderful full circle approach! This is a fantastic part for me, working with the team whose garden we are representing.” The new Wisley garden is due to open in 2020.