The 'View To A Future' Garden - 2003 Chelsea Flower Show


The idea for this garden came about in Spring 2001 when my husband Dominic and I went on a short break to Tuscany. We went to Cortona, which I had read about in “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes. We fell in love with the area, and spent our whole time roaming around the valleys, lanes and footpaths, and since we are both keen photographers, taking hundreds of photos of the wonderful countryside. I was struck by the sheer beauty of a simple natural space, which I think is the feel that many of us want from our gardens. I work all day in an environment of concrete, metal and glass, and for me my garden should represent an escape from that. At one point I exclaimed, “This would make a wonderful garden for Chelsea.” Dominic said, “Well go on then, why don’t you do it?” “Ye-es”, I said – meaning no. After all, although I am an enthusiastic gardener, by profession I am a television weather presenter.

A year later I was at Chelsea with two friends, also keen gardeners, and suddenly that idea popped back into my head, and wouldn’t go away. I thought naively that between us we had quite a few skills and that we should give it a try. With the supreme confidence of total ignorance I applied to Chelsea, and luckily along the way, was befriended by many different people who actually did have the expertise and knowledge to help us turn my wild idea into reality. With sponsorship from Sky, and the Learning & Skills Council, we set about making it happen.

Apart from the sheer beauty of the Tuscan countryside, I was especially interested in its flora because as a weather presenter I am particularly aware of climate trends, and some of the research which is being done on the anticipated results of global warming for the British Isles. Global warming itself is a more or less accepted fact; whether it is part of a much longer-term cooling trend is still up for discussion, as is the degree of man’s role in it. What is becoming increasingly agreed upon is the view that the climate of southern Britain could, and probably will, warm quite rapidly in less than a century, leading to the development of a climate more like that of the present-day Mediterranean.

Current research indicates milder winters, hotter summers, and the increasing risk of both flooding and drought events. With average summer temperatures in parts of southern Britain perhaps increasing by up to 3°C within the next fifty years, the very nature of the countryside looks set to change. Our gardening practices will alter accordingly through a combination of opportunity and necessity. Some traditional garden favourites will become increasingly difficult to grow. On the plus side, there will be introductions of exciting new plants – you only have to look in your local garden centre to see that this trend is already underway.

And so………………… this garden, inspired by a glimpse from a Tuscan wayside, gives hints of how the British countryside and our gardens could develop in the next hundred years. My hope is that as well as being a beautiful and inspirational space in its own right, this garden gives a “View To A Future” – our future.

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