Chelsea gets a billabong

The show garden section of the Royal Chelsea Flower show will this year host a billabong!  Philip Johnson’s design for the 2013 Trailfinders Australian Garden presented by Fleming’s Nurseries looks local for inspiration.  Philip is a Melbourne-based landscape designer with a passion for sustainable landscapes and a special interest in water – how to capture it, conserve it and use it.  Billabongs are part of the picture.  In Philip’s gardens the billabongs, or natural pools, are either created from scratch, or are traditional pools given a rock-strewn, re-planted makeover. The pools are for swimming in – chemical-free natural filtration systems provide the clean water – but also provide water for irrigation, fire safety and wildlife. The one shown below is a pool makeover, and though it’s been photographed not long after it’s gone in, you can see how the planting will fill out to give a sense of being in your own secret bush pool.

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Philip has been working in sustainable landscape design for almost two decades, with an understanding that water restrictions and climate change are just part of the creative challenge in making gardens that people like to be in. His design company won consecutive sustainability awards at the 2011 and 2012 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Shows. This is one of those gardens.

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So what can visitors to the show gardens at Chelsea’s centenary this year expect? A billabong? Tick. A challenge to traditional ideas about garden-making? Tick. A strongly sustainable design? Tick.

Graham Ross visited Philip in Melbourne as he was preparing to pack for Chelsea and reported back:  “The entire towering rock landscape for Chelsea has already been assembled on a vast airport-like area of bitumen in Scotland. Each massive rock, most weighing many tonnes, was numbered and fixed in position with a crane – and GPS!  The huge, waratah-shaped viewing structure at the rear of the garden has been assembled, disassembled and reassembled again to ensure it all fits together perfectly. The plants have been especially grown in the UK and on the continent, but the winter has been brutal this year all across Europe.  Will they fulfil their potential in time? It’s just another nightmare for Phillip and his landscape and horticultural team to cope with.”  Here’s the idea:

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So will they all be singing Waltzing Matilda by the billabong next month, celebrating a gold medal, or even a Best in Show award?  Stay tuned. We’ll bring you Graham’s reports from the ground, as well as the thoughts of our two tour leaders, Linda Ross and Colin Barlow.

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  1. Pingback: Chelsea Best in Show – come into the garden! | Ross Garden Tours Blog

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