Winning garden not meant to be pretty

Visitors turned out in droves to view the lush show gardens at the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds. The award-winning M&G Garden, which was visited by Duchess of Cambridge Catherine (right).
The award-winning M&G Garden, which was visited by Duchess of Cambridge Catherine (right).PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS, THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE
Visitors turned out in droves to view the lush show gardens at the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds. The award-winning M&G Garden, which was visited by Duchess of Cambridge Catherine (right).
Visitors turned out in droves to view the lush show gardens at the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS, THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE
Visitors turned out in droves to view the lush show gardens at the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds. The award-winning M&G Garden, which was visited by Duchess of Cambridge Catherine (right).
James Basson.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS, THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE

A creation inspired by an abandoned Maltese limestone quarry clinches the top award at the Chelsea Flower Show

LONDON • It was not supposed to be pretty, but the judges certainly found it impressive.

And James Basson's take on an abandoned Maltese limestone quarry has won the Best in Show accolade at this year's Chelsea Flower Show in the British capital.

Named M&G Garden, the construction, which includes slabs of limestone and evergreens, perennials and ground cover, was designed to show the interaction between humans and nature on the island, Basson has said, and draws attention to the balance that needs to be maintained.

"I am absolutely thrilled to have won Best in Show for the first time," he said. "It is an incredible feeling and a testimony to the hard work of the whole team."

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He thanked his wife, Helen, as well as Crocus, the nursery that built the garden, and his financial backer, M&G Investments, for the roles they played.

He won a gold medal for his fantasy garden at the 2014 edition of the Singapore Garden Festival.

In an interview with The Business Times in Singapore, he had said he was freer to let his imagination bloom in showcasing his work abroad. At home, he was constrained by the need to be more conservative to go with the local mood.

But, as his work at the Chelsea show this year indicates, he is not holding back on making a statement after his own passion.

Discussing his design beforehand, Basson emphasised its ecological message.

After a research trip to the Maltese quarry that the garden is intended to evoke, he told The Daily Telegraph that it was "not supposed to be pretty. It is stark and monumentally brutal".

He added: "I am fanatical about quarries anyway; the cleanliness and purity of them can be like a contemporary building. I love the graphic patterns of the blocks, the scouring marks and the way nature regenerates after Man has left.

"A client told me about this one and when I had the chance to come to Malta for a design job, I came to see it and was blown away," he said.

His design was divided into zones, each with its own ecology. It included shrub land, the landscape of the hills of the Mediterranean coastline and cliff-top scenes, echoing the variety seen in Malta.

The garden also received the Best Construction Award - the second such prize in two years for Crocus.

The Royal Horticultural Society, which runs the annual show in London, said: "The message behind the designer's creation is that humans need to take action to preserve the fragile environment of our planet.

"Sustainable water disposal, recycling and composting - all are vital if Malta is to save its distinct and delicate landscapes."

The five-day event, which ends today, is expected to draw 157,000 people to the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds, where the flower show has taken root since 1913.

GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Winning garden not meant to be pretty'. Print Edition | Subscribe