Award-winning landscape and garden designer Helen Elks-Smith returns to RHS Chelsea 2019 with her first Main Avenue Show Garden for Warner Edwards Gin.
The Warner Edwards Gin Garden, which will be Helen’s second garden at RHS Chelsea and her first on Main Avenue, is inspired by the natural springs at Falls Farm in Northamptonshire – the home of Warner Edwards Gin and Distillery – and has been designed using a sequence of structures and techniques to create multiple water features, which run quietly through different areas of the garden creating gentle arcs and streams before they emerge again in the garden.
The garden will feature a series of complex drystone walls that form a central pavilion, with two large cantilevered roofs and a central ‘chimney’ where water will flow down through a string of copper ‘fins’, mimicking the internal engineering of “Curiosity” the Warner Edwards’ copper pot still, before disappearing into the ground.
The striking central pavilion, with its floating cantilevered roofs and protruding water rills, will have a distinct linear quality and offer a nod to Frank Lloyd-Wright’s iconic ‘Fallingwater’ where the organic architecture provides a harmonious union between design and nature.
Ahead of the pavilion and surrounded by ornamental planting, a sheltered seating area will anchor and balance the design and create a contemplative space or ‘hortus conclusus’ from which to admire the landscape.
The planting will be seen in four distinct, but complementary, zones that blend seamlessly throughout the plot and, in line with the Warner Edwards ethos of “giving back to nature”, will provide good habitats and food sources for birds, insects, bees and butterflies. In the foreground, a relaxed Mediterranean-style border, punctuated with shaggy Yew ‘pillows’, will merge with a textured wildflower turf, while a swath of native hedgerow planting, underplanted with ferns and grasses, will wrap around the pavilion. To complete the garden, the cantilevered roofs will be crowned with Sedums, Euphorbias and Thyme to create a vibrant living roof.
Native British species have been chosen for the feature trees and shrubs including Junipers (Juniperus Communis), Field Maple (Acer Campestre) Hawthorn (Crataegus Mongyna) Hazel (Corylus Avellana) and Yew (Taxus Bacatta). The Mediterranean-style border will feature Lavender, Rosemary, Santolina, Iris and Alliums and additional wild flower species, such as Cowslips, Achillea and Harebells, will be embedded within the wildflower turf to create the effect of a grazed meadow grassland.
Overall the planting will reference the pastoral setting of Falls Farm, the heart of Warner Edwards Gin Distillery in rural Northamptonshire.
A simple palette of materials including limestone, copper and glass will run throughout the garden creating a harmonious balance and reflecting the heritage of local landscape of the village of Harrington, said to be built on “rock and water”, as well as the distilling materials of the Warner Edwards Gin distillery. Expect textured drystone walls to be reflected in the weathered blue-brown paving and rock boulders and the timber furniture to be mirrored in the vertical wooden frieze under the pavilion’s roof.
Helen will be working with a team of specialists to create the garden including water expert Andrew Ewing and artist Wendy Newhofer who will create an elaborate blue glass panel for the pavilion. Other prominent features will include a stone water trough lined with copper, and wooden furniture designed by Helen.
Helen Elks-Smith said: “I wanted to create a modern interpretation of Falls Farm and the Warner Edwards Gin distillery. The terracing, ditches and the remains of a once grand Manor House on this working farm were a real inspiration to me. I loved their dramatic linear quality and the way they interrupted the beautiful natural landscape. I also wanted to bring to life the essential natural springs on the site as they emerge and disappear on the plot. I hope I have captured this distinctive Northamptonshire landscape and the local vernacular in a calm and tranquil setting for RHS Chelsea.”
Warner Edwards Founder, Tom Warner said: “In Helen, we have found someone who has the experience and vision to bring our brand to life in garden form. We knew immediately she would be perfect and had to get her on board. Last year, the Warner Edwards team were lucky enough to win a silver medal, and so our hopes are high for another medal this year.”