Bowles & Wyer
Chelsea 2020

Look forward to RHS Chelsea 2021

Written by Rosa Hinton

With the sad although not unexpected news that RHS Chelsea 2020 has been cancelled, we’re looking forward to Chelsea 2021 instead. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll then be able to build the garden intended for 2020’s show. We’re hoping to construct an innovative Main Avenue garden for designer, Robert Myers – celebrating modern day nursing and using bio-based building materials.

The garden has a special story behind it, as it marks the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth whilst celebrating the importance of nursing in the 21st century. Sponsored by the Burdett Trust for Nursing and designed by Robert Myers, we’ll be building with innovative bio-based building materials to create an imagined courtyard garden for a new hospital. Inspired by Nightingale’s pioneering views on nursing and hospital design, the garden incorporates modern day alternatives to some of the key materials she advocated.

Florence Nightingale lead the way in improving the hospital environment – from using concrete floors to make them easier to clean, to introducing pavilion-style hospital layouts with drainage systems in place. This garden takes inspiration from those ideas, but with a 21st century twist. The central feature of the space will be a huge timber pergola, built from cross-laminated timber (CLT). This is an engineered wood, known as the ‘concrete of the future’ due to its potential as an eco-friendly alternative building material. We’ll be piecing together the modular parts of the structure on-site, using post-tensioning to support the structure, and reducing the need for steel supports. It’s the first time we’ve worked with CLT and it’s a first to use it on this scale at RHS Chelsea!

Dan Riddleston, Managing Director here at Bowles & Wyer, who is leading the project alongside Contracts Manager Dene Hakner, said: “We’re constantly looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint, particularly at Chelsea where the gardens are often transitory, so we’re incredibly excited to have been able to source such innovative materials and techniques and to be introducing them at Chelsea. Using CLT means that the pergola can be constructed very quickly, will require minimal transport and will create very little waste. Added to that, rather than emitting carbon, in the way other building materials do, timber absorbs it, thereby off-setting the carbon produced through its manufacture.”


Of course, alongside the hard landscaping, we’ll be planting around 3,700 plants too. The plants will symbolise Florence Nightingale’s own pressed-flower collection, whilst others will have medicinal properties. The touch of Florence Nightingale will be present throughout the garden – the reflecting pool pays homage to her insights into drainage and hygiene, elements of her handwriting will be inscribed into concrete walls, and images of her will feature in glass windows. This garden is special because it celebrates her enduring legacy, but also takes it into the 21st century to inspire the next generation of nurses. We’re excited to get started on this unique show garden and we’re looking forward to sharing more with you soon!

November 26, 2019