Bowles & Wyer
warners distillery garden


Written by Rosa Hinton

Since we can’t look forward to RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, our construction team share their insights into the show garden we created last year – The Warner’s Distillery Garden.

Designed by Helen Elks-Smith for Warner’s Distillery, this Main Avenue show garden won a Silver Gilt Medal. The design was inspired by the natural springs and aquifers at Falls Farm in Northamptonshire, where Warner’s Distillery is based. The sheltered garden featured a complex series of water features flowing in and out of dry-stone walls, a playful interpretation of captured water.

As ever with Chelsea garden builds, construction was high-pressured and needed extreme precision and efficiency. As well as dense planting, the garden featured a variety of different elements in the hard landscaping – from the fused glass wall, to dry-stone walling, to building the cantilevered roofs and protruding water rills. The structure itself was possibly the greatest challenge – as it needed a huge amount of steel work hidden within the dry-stone walls in order to hold the cantilevered roofs. All in all, the structure required the assistance of a whole team of experts in different fields!

Most of the construction work took place off site, so that the limited time of 20 days on site could be spent on the planting. Since it was our responsibility to get the garden ready on time, everything followed a strict programme of works, setting out the sequence and timing of all operations. We’d completed most of the pavilion in advance, including the dry-stone walls, so that by the time we got to Chelsea, 70% had been built. We even tested how we’d transport the structures to the showground – vigorously shaking them on a forklift truck to see how they would fare in transit

Once on site, the first thing we always do is to make sure we can plug the kettle in! After that, we started excavations, setting out and taking in deliveries of the various elements. Space is always tight, so it takes precise maneuvering to get things into place, without upsetting the neighbours! We had finished the construction work by the second week, then releasing the rear of the site to the planting team. There’s always some sort of problem that crops up at Chelsea, but we were really pleased with this garden and thrilled that it met Helen’s original vision.

Of course, this year at Chelsea we were going to be building a show garden for The Burdett Trust. Designed by Robert Myers, it was a garden to mark the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, whilst celebrating modern-day nursing. It would have perhaps been more apt than ever! It has an exciting design, and features plants taken from Florence Nightingale’s own pressed flower collection. So we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing this garden at RHS Chelsea 2021 instead!

The Florence Nightingale Garden visual concept by Robert Myers

April 17, 2020