RHS Chelsea 2017: Lee Bestall’s 500 Years of Covent Garden

A Main Avenue show garden that aims to celebrate the history of London's iconic market square 

Lee Bestall MSGD may be doing a garden based on Covent Garden, but the designer is keen to avoid any recreation or pastiche of the area. So this is not a ‘mini Covent Garden’, but a modern, domestic garden inspired by the locality. Apparently, Covent Garden was once an orchard for Westminster Abbey (known then as Convent Garden) and this is the starting place for his inspiration.

His original idea was to embrace the orchard theme for a Fresh garden with ancient apple trees styled in a modern way, but the design developed when Capco and the Sir Simon Milton Foundation came on board and he ended up with a full-size show garden on Main Avenue.

Although no stranger to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, this is Bestall’s first show garden, and he admits he is a little nervous, “I’m feeling very grown-up, but at the same time the pressure is intense.” His aim is to achieve somewhere that rings true. “I’m hoping that when I sit in it, I’ll be transported to somewhere beautiful and not feel like I’m sitting in the middle of an artificially created show garden.”

The apple trees he is using play a large part in the garden and Lee is very concerned about their size and the question of whether they will even be in leaf for the show (flowers are unlikely). He has described them on the brief as being ‘at the stage they would naturally be at in May’, in the hope that this slightly ambiguous statement will cover all options.

One aspect of the show that Lee is not looking forward to is the breakdown: “I’ll probably leave before that happens, so I can remember the garden as it was.” 

The 500 Years Garden in brief:

CONTRACTOR: JPH Landscapes  

PLANTS: Hortus Loci  

PLANTERS: Urbis Design