Chris Beardshaw wins Chelsea gold for his RNLI backyard garden

Chris Beardshaw had made a decision that Chelsea Flower Show 2019 would be his previous. After eight Chelsea golds — just one awarded in 2019 — 4 People’s Choice and one Most effective In Display award, he would exit on a substantial. Finito. The finish. Then the Royal National Lifeboat Institution came knocking.

His preliminary stance in 2019 was due to the sheer toll exacted. “Chelsea can take a absurd total of time, effort and hard work and psychological energy,” he claims. With months of planning and nervous visits to plant nurseries even in advance of the powerful make system, “it’s relentless”.

All this is on prime of a big backyard design exercise, broadcasting commitments that include BBC2’s The Beechgrove Garden and BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Issue Time, and family members existence in the Cotswolds with wife Frances and their three daughters.

But in 2021 he obtained a phone from Job Providing Back again (PGB), an initiative started by two RHS members to enable fund gardens at Chelsea for lockdown-battered charities. Would he like to design and style a backyard garden for Could 2022? Beardshaw was politely declining until the caller talked about it was for the RNLI. Beardshaw, 53, a life-extended supporter of the charity, could not resist. That back garden has now shipped his ninth Chelsea gold. “We’re all thrilled,” he says, “that the garden is carrying out the RNLI justice.”

Garden designer Chris Beardshaw
Beardshaw grew up sailing: ‘I’ve found the way the RNLI volunteers carry out by themselves, and the concentrate and dedication they have’ © John Campbell

And the building of the backyard has reminded Beardshaw that the camaraderie and teamwork concerned is “genuinely humbling”, he claims. “It’s also a reminder to me on why the Chelsea encounter is so addictive.”

Beardshaw grew up sailing and had witnessed lifeboats in action. “I’ve seen the way the RNLI volunteers carry out by themselves, and the concentration and commitment they have.” When organizing his design and style he frequented Portishead lifeboat station in Bristol to chat to crew users for inspiration. “You have to press people today on what helps make them tick due to the fact a structure have to replicate the customer.”

The volunteers ended up “fantastically modest about what they do”, he states. “I requested them, ‘Why do you chance your individual lives?’ and the collective reply was straightforward: ‘If a baby of mine was in hassle, I’d hope that somebody would phase up and do the same.’”

The other element that struck Beardshaw was the organisation’s sophistication — technologically highly developed and “the gold standard of rescue services”, he says. “They’re eager not to be viewed as adult men in polo necks rowing out to sea.”

Beardshaw wove both equally attributes into his design and style. There are no vivid colours, “so the yard is tranquil with a tranquil confidence”, to replicate the volunteers.

It contains an unobtrusive oak pavilion at the rear. Its Georgian type celebrates the charity’s founding in 1824 whilst incorporating marine quality 316 stainless steel to replicate the 21st century. Plantings mix assertion trees these types of as Ulmus parvifolia and Pinus sylvestris with modest perennials in a muted pastel palette of whites, blues and pinks.

Beardshaw has 37 medals to day, which includes international awards. He characteristics his good results to heeding his father’s suggestions that when supplied an prospect, “Never say no. Say yes then get the job done out how you are going to do it.”

The oak temple in the RNLI garden
The RNLI backyard garden, with its oak temple, is ‘calm with a quiet confidence’, states Beardshaw, like the charity’s volunteers © John Campbell

His passion for crops was sown developing up in rural Worcestershire. Beardshaw’s grandmother “loved expanding crops but didn’t know just about anything about them”, he suggests. When strolling with her as a child, “she’d quickly vanish into someone’s back garden,” suggests Beardshaw. “She coveted other people’s bouquets and she’d tug at them just a little bit too tricky until finally a thing fell off. She had a lovely backyard whole of crops named just after who she’d received them from.”

She also invaded her husband’s portion of the backyard garden. “My nan would hold out until finally he’d absent down the pub then plant bouquets in his vegetable patches,” he states. “He erected a picket fence to retain her out but she’d just move it.”

Beardshaw’s destiny was set. He gained a nationwide diploma in horticulture from Pershore College or university in Worcestershire, then an MA in landscape architecture from Gloucestershire College.

In 1994 he briefly joined a landscape architecture business before returning to Pershore University as a lecturer. When, in 1997, none of his fellow lecturers needed the further operate of developing a backyard garden for the Stroke Affiliation for RHS Malvern Spring Competition, Beardshaw and his pupils jumped in.

Whilst performing some very last-moment tidying prior to judging, Beardshaw was approached by a female carrying “leopard-skin trousers and knee-length boots, so I realized she wasn’t an RHS judge,” he claims.

She was a BBC producer trying to find to job interview a back garden designer. Beardshaw pointed her in the path of his manager, but she was in a hurry. “She mentioned, ‘Oh effectively, I suppose you’ll have to do.’” Inside months he was showing on Gardeners’ Globe and finally offered two reveals of his possess, The Flying Gardener and Concealed Gardens.

Beardshaw thinks the achievement may possibly be thanks to “people observing that I glowed any time I talked about plants” and to his scarce position as a designer with horticultural expertise. “Good style is about curating crops. A large amount of designers say it is about engineering plants, so forcing them into a part. I say curating better describes it, as if you know your crops you’ll know how to use them adequately.

“There are a good deal of designers who don’t have the horticultural know-how to craft gardens, wherever the vegetation are the principal gamers. They should have that expertise. Would you hire a chef who has no know-how of substances?”

A lifeboat heading out to sea. A hill and houses on the shore are in the background
An RNLI lifeboat © Alamy

His very own combination of the two disciplines has introduced prestigious initiatives his way, like his new redesign of the parterre garden at The Nationwide Trust for Scotland’s Pitmedden Garden.

Beardshaw’s initial Chelsea foray in 1999, like his Malvern knowledge, was due to serendipity. His fellow lecturers at Pershore declined an opportunity to construct a clearly show backyard garden so Beardshaw volunteered. The Sunflower Avenue garden, intended with the late broadcaster Peter Seabrook, won a gold medal, and induced a passion that — inspite of his very best intentions — is still burning.

In mild of his acquire, will Beardshaw be back at Chelsea following year? “I believed this would be my very last backyard listed here,” he says. “But honestly, now I’m right here I may perhaps reconsider.”

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