Chelsea Flower Show 2022: Favorite Sanctuary Garden #3

The Stitchers' Garden , designed by Frederic Whyte and built by Champain Landscapes and Brampton Willows won a silver medal at the Show. The theme is intriguing. It was sponsored by the charity Fine Cell Work, which teaches prisoners needlework, the idea being that this skill will nurture their self-worth and encourage them to lead independent and crime-free lives upon release.

The design symbolizes that creative journey as visitors look into the garden through a "cell" – a simple structure of steel and woven willow panels that approximates the dimensions of a prison cell.

Looking through the bars of a metaphorical prison cell to a creative space that offers calm and hope

Opposite this cell is a similar but slightly larger structure that represents the space in which the creative exchange between prisoners, designers and Fine Cell Work takes place. Between these two structures is a bubbling water feature, all these elements being surrounded by soft plantings that elicits an aura of calm.

The theme is both unusual and well executed, yet I didn't research any of this until after I had allowed the garden to speak to me without such narration. So what was it that kept drawing me back to this garden? It was tucked in between far more flamboyant designs, yet this one captivated me. As I studied the design I looked for answers – and ideas that could be translated into any home garden.

Harmonious Colors

Soft shades of buttermilk, apricot and terracotta with blue-grey accents was a bold choice for a show garden, mainly because those colors are not especially "showy" . Yet they perfectly echoed the colors of the surrounding brick wall – which I suspect was the initial driving force. The busy pattern of the brick wall was so striking it could easily have been overwhelming yet it was tempered by the softness of the overall design.

Designers often seek inspiration from a home's architecture, the environmental context or even interior furnishings. If the brick wall was the springboard for this design than I'm even more impressed as that was not an easy choice!

Blue-grey was a perfect accent color for the containers that acted as focal points: still a soft hue but distinctive enough to be read as a contrast to the pastels and a delightful backdrop to the soft-yellow lupins especially.

Strong Geometry

Clean lines and strong, rectilinear shapes are evident throughout the design from the bricks themselves, the simple steel structures, the planting beds and the water feature. The only curves are introduced by the weathered containers.

Within this framework the billowing plantings offer an exciting counterpoint, softening and blurring the lines just enough for the overall space to feel serene rather than stark, calming rather than chaotic.

Tactile Textures

The woven willow panels within the structures were a fabulous addition. I loved their irregularity of size and placement on the walls. This idea could be easily replicated using any number of materials from stained glass to laser cut metal.

Wispy orange hair sedge adds movement within the plantings, their finer texture a pleasing contrast to the bolder foliage of the lupins and peonies. Spherical white alliums and rocket-like lupin flowers punctuate the lower drifts of perennials – it really is a delightful tapestry woven together with great skill and artistry.

So 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 why.

For my final Chelsea Show roundup I'll share my top Show Garden – don't miss it!

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  1. nancy mellen on August 9, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    my favorite garden was #2 as i personally found it the most calming and serene.

    • Karen Chapman on August 9, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      I can understand that – and it was a tough call for me too!

  2. Lynn Dickason on August 16, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    I adored #2! Could wallow in it. I found it perfectly attuned in all elements; nothing competed with or distracted from the other elements.

    • Karen Chapman on August 16, 2022 at 4:23 pm

      It was pretty special wasn't it?