RHS Chelsea 2017: Sarah Eberle’s Viking Cruises Garden of Inspiration

Sarah Eberle FSGD

The Chelsea veteran turns in a show garden and a Pavilion exhibit for the second year running 

Last year, the doyenne of designers, Sarah Eberle FSGD, made RHS Chelsea Flower Show history. Her Gold medal for Hillier Nurseries in the Great Pavilion made her the only designer to have won Golds in every design category.

She also managed a Gold and the Best Artisan Garden accolade for Viking Cruises, who unsurprisingly are very happy to sponsor her 2017 Artisan garden. In 2016, she was asked to feature a Viking Cruise on the Mekong River delta. This year, the sponsor asked her to take her pick from a long list of cruise destinations.

Photo: RHS/Tim Sandall

“My immediate choice was Barcelona. Architect Antoni Gaudí is one of my design heroes, and the garden will reflect the vibrant art and culture of Barcelona,” says Eberle.

She believes show gardens should tell a story. “I like to work on a visual way of presenting the main idea. All you then have to add is scale, proportion, texture and colour.”

Photo: RHS/Tim Sandall

The design centres on a small courtyard-sized garden and takes Gaudí’s organic use of natural materials, especially his mosaics, as its main influence. It is colourful and rich in texture and consists of three curved walls, made of one type of stone in three different ways, which sounds intriguing. A rill around the perimeter plays on the use of rills as irrigation in Mediterranean gardens and binds the different elements together.

Timing is going to be an issue for her, especially as she is taking on the Hilliers exhibit in the Great Pavilion again this year. “It’s important that we don’t hit critical elements for both exhibits at the same time.”

Eberle admits that multi-tasking at Chelsea doesn’t get any easier as any advantage in experience is cancelled out as she becomes more physically challenged every year. But mentally, doing two exhibits provides the opportunity to stand aside from each and gain ‘fresh eyes’. “I find I’m also slightly less emotionally involved and therefore more rational in approach to problems that arise.”

The Viking Cruises Garden in brief:

CONTRACTOR: Belderbos Landscapes 

STONE: Artorius Faber 

PLANTS: Piante Faro 


MOSAICS: Gary Drostle