Chelsea Flower Show 2022: Favorite Sanctuary Garden #2

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Had I read the background on The Boodles Travel Garden , designed by Tom Hoblyn ahead of time I'd have struggled to comprehend it on that level, trying to determine which plant represented which country for example. Even now, truthfully, the written concept does nothing for me other than indicate that the plant palette is from around the world, based loosely on the circumnavigation of the globe by someone I'd never heard of, back in 1962….

Designer Tom Hoblyn is no stranger to the Chelsea Flower Show, having won three gold, five silver-gilt and two silver medals in the past.

Instead, ignorance allowed me to immerse myself in the design and let it speak to me without any script, and as such I loved it. This pint-sized oasis was filled with ideas for the home gardener and I returned to photograph it several times during my visit to the Show. Here are the key design elements that I loved.

The Use of Forced Perspective

Notice how the width of the stream is much narrower in the distance, suggesting it is really much farther away

The incorporation of a shallow river in this garden and the way it was used to give the illusion of a much larger space was genius.  It meanders in voluptuous oxbow-like curves around generous, mounded planting peninsulas. The eye naturally follows its lazy journey through the small garden while the brain assumes this must be a much larger garden after all.

Visitors primarily view the stream from an exposed clearing downstream. Looking back to the river source, the width of the river has been deliberately narrowed suggesting it must be much farther away. Likewise the oxbows become less pronounced upstream. Very clever!

Secluded within the plantings – the perfect oasis

The planting beds have been mounded, this slight change in grade allowing views to be partially obscured. Those tantalizing glimpses of a sitting nook again added to the illusion of space.

The Use of Texture

Fabulous texture in this river bed material , enhancing the rippling effect of the water

That stream bed was so well done – notice the texture of the river bed that suggests ripples even as it allows for slight turbidity in the flow of water. I have no idea what they used and can't seem to find a reference to it. If you have any ideas do tell me in a comment below!

Notice how the wall has been stamped with ferns – so clever!

Of course the plant textures were a treat too. Iris siberica 'Caesar's Brother' punctuated the mossy carpet of Selaginella kraussiana. Bold leaved hosta contrasted with lacy ferns. Japanese maples, Acer pensylvanicum,  and a dogwood tree provide the canopies under which these and other shade-loving perennials would thrive. Many of these plants can be grown in temperate regions around the world so this could be re-created with only a few modifications.

Details, details…..the wall was stamped with lacy ferns too!

Restraint in Color

By repeating the accent colors (blue and golden-yellow) along the stream-side plantings, the eye naturally follows through the space.

This is essentially a garden of green with just a few pops of blue iris and golden-yellow Primula bulleyana to move the eye through the space. Dusky maroon tones of the wall are repeated in some foliage, most notably of the dogwood.

This was my second favorite Sanctuary Garden at the RHS CHelsea Flower  Show this year. Did you miss my top pick? It may surprise you! You can read about it here.

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  1. Ruth on July 26, 2022 at 8:48 am

    Lovely garden with meandering path. At first looking at the picture in your title, I thought the stream was a border tile material because of the symmetrical ripples. Lol! So maybe too fabricated or modern in a natural setting???

    • Karen Chapman on July 26, 2022 at 9:55 am

      A reader emailed to tell me she had seen a BBC interview on this and thought the river bed was made from pieces of overlapping slate. I know it's a show garden so designers can and do take risks and try things for the sake of theater without worrying too much about how it might hold up in real life. But I could see this say in a contemporary, leafy setting…. Maybe there is a UV resistant rubberized material that could be used – that would withstand being stood on for cleaning/access or scrubbing if needed???

  2. Ron DAVIS on July 26, 2022 at 9:52 am

    Wow, that river bed material is really cool. I have not seen it before. Is it glass or more likely plastic? Could you comment on the material a little more. Very nice, peaceful feeling to this small space.

    • Karen Chapman on July 26, 2022 at 9:57 am

      Hi Ron, as I said in the post I couldn't find the details but a reader emailed to say she had seen this designer being interviewed on the BBC and thought it was overlapping slate. I wonder if it could be fabricated from a UV resistant material that would also withstand maintenance eg plastic or rubber??
      It was a gorgeous space!

  3. nancy mellen on July 26, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    I loved the multitude of green shades and the pops of color in flowers and foliage. I would have loved to walk through that garden, and to me it beat out your #1 garden. Somehow I am missing the Acer pensylvanicum which is one of my favorites and grows in the wild where we camp at Lake Winnipesaukee in NH. Thank you for sharing!

    • Karen Chapman on July 26, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      So glad you enjoy the post Nancy. I'll be curious to hear what you think of my third and final Sanctuary garden!

    • Colleen on July 27, 2022 at 11:34 am

      Nancy – I love A. pensylvanicum, also! I planted one in my Portland, OR (8b) garden in 2013 and it is my pride & joy 😊 Unfortunately, our freak ice storm in February 2021 took out the leader and I was so afraid I had lost it. But it survived and is still a favorite despite being a bit lopsided for now. I can see some branching that will fill in the void!
      Anyway, I was trying to find that tree in the photos as well – and finally saw its signature striped bark and goosefoot leaves in the left upper corner of the third photo down – it is multi-trunked. You have to zoom in a bit 😉

      • nancy mellen on July 27, 2022 at 1:05 pm

        Thanks! I found it. At our camp where we have them growing in the wild, the electric company came in and cut about 20 down. Luckily they have all grown back from the roots and after one year are 3-4' tall.

  4. […] which Sanctuary Garden was your favorite from my picks? Number 1, #2 or this one? I'd love to know which one speaks to you the most and […]