Chelsea Best in Show – come into the garden!

They did it!  Wild cheers and a foot-stomping ovation from us as the Australian team scoops the Best in Show award at Chelsea. You’ve seen photos in the newspaper and on the television, now come into the garden with us and have a closer look.


First up a look at the winners – that’s designer Philip Johnson with Natalie Imbruglia holding the award, a proud Wes Fleming in the hat, and Graham Ross standing by. Wes Fleming has sponsored show gardens for the last nine years at the Royal Horticultural Society’s famous Chelsea Flower Show in London, and has previously bought home gold medals, as well as silvers and silver-gilts, but never the elusive Best in Show, which is the Oscar of garden design “I have dreamed of this moment since I was a little boy growing up in the nursery with Mum and Dad regaling me with tales of the Chelsea Flower Show,” said Wes. “ I’ve been chasing this honour for my whole adult life so to have been awarded not only a coveted gold medal but a Best in Show at the world’s most highly regarded horticultural event, is a moment no words can describe.”

The Best  in Show Chelsea 2013 was The Trailfinders Australian Garden presented by Fleming’s designed by Melbourne-based Philip Johnson. His idea was to create a sustainable habitat that worked as a garden but looked like a magical ferny glade in the bush. It was an exciting design idea that even as an illustration had us all enthralled. Read what Graham Ross thought when he met Philip in his studio here.

Wildflowers in the Australian Garden, winner of Best in Show, Chelsea 2013

Photo: Linda Ross

Linda Ross was at Opening Day at Chelsea  and says that she and her group of Ross Garden travellers loved the garden.  “People are calling it the Flemings Farewell Garden as Wes has said this is the last garden he will sponsor for Chelsea.  Even the BBC are presenting the win as something of the end of an era, praising the warmth, humour and camaraderie that the Australian teams have brought to what was a staid and serious show,” she says.

The garden was judged best in show by every single judge on the panel and has been hugely popular with the English crowd. It’s based on Philip’s own garden at Olinda in the Dandenongs and features a monolithic stone gorge, running waterfalls, a studio and billabong.

Trailfinders Australian Garden At The Chelsea Flower Show

Water capture and conservation have long been a vital aspect of Philip’s design work, which searches for creative and practical solutions to the environmental challenges of the urban environment.  Melbourne-based architecture firm, Studio 505, designed the studio structure, which was crafted specifically for the Queen’s height.

Trailfinders Australian Garden at Chelsea 2013  showing deck over the billabong with the waratah-inspired studio in the background

The design is inspired by the waratah, the flower offered by Philip’s father to his mother when he proposed, and the structure is built from corten steel and sustainably sourced timber. Linda was impressed by the detail in the studio, including these panels, shaped like the growth rings on a tree.


Detail of the Trailfinders Australian garden, best in show Cheslea 2013

Photo: Linda Ross

The rocks that formed the gorge from where a waterfall tumbled into the billabong were sourced from a Scottish quarry, and GPS was used to recreate the perfect positioning at the Chelsea site. The WA wildflowers had been urged into flower in Europe, despite a chilly spring and the detailed planting was beautiful.

Chelsea 2013 Best in Show garden showing mass-planted west Australian wildflowers

Photo: Linda Ross

The finished design took a total of 17 days and over 2,500 man-hours to build with a team of 18 volunteers working flat out to bring it together, and Wes paid tribute to the team. “We couldn’t have done it without the dedication and support of our 18 volunteer crewmen and our families,” he said,”not just in 2013 but on every show garden we’ve ever presented since we first arrived at Chelsea back in 2004. We share this medal with everyone who has enjoyed the Chelsea experience with us along the way!”

Stone steps and path through the Trailfinders Australian Garden, Chelsea 2013

Photo: Linda Ross

Want more?  Graham is presenting the biggest ever Better Homes and Gardens Chelsea special on television tonight, and over the weekend will be doing the Garden Clinic radio show on 2GB live from London. Listen in from 6am on Saturday morning. As well as talking to Philip and Wes about the win, Graham has lined up interviews with Helen Mirren, Joanna Lumley, and Chelsea senior judge Andrew Fisher Tomlin, who will reveal some of the plans for the exciting new Australian Garden Show Sydney.

Late breaking news!

We might get a chance to see the Philip’s winning garden for ourselves: Graham reports that rumours are circulating through Chelsea that the Victorian Premier, Dr Denis Naphtine,  wants the garden installed as a permanent display somewhere in Melbourne.  Graham’s source for this rumour is none other than former PM Malcolm Fraser. But the Victorians might have some competition – another rumour has it that a firm offer has been made to buy the entire landscape for a London garden.  An English fan of the Australian bush – or a homesick Aussie who can no longer live without a billabong to call their own?



Comments (7)

  1. YIPPEEE….. the wonder of beaut Aussie landscape featured in London city, the other side of the planet, WOW, FAB. T;RIFFIC AND RIPPA = Australians all let us rejoice and thanks to those who worked so very hard to achieve an outstanding achievement for Australia.

  2. First tour with Ross tours. My husband and I had a fantastic time. Met lots of new friends. Chelsea was amazing. Congratulation to the Aussie team it was great to meet some of them in person and go onto the Aussie entry. England has some beautiful gardens.

  3. Chelsea was a blast wasn’t it Bev! But funny it was Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove House in the middle of the beautiful Cotswolds that took our collective breathe away. It was funny, soulful and alive with birdsong (unfortunately Ed. there are no pictures due to their no camera/phone policy), infuriating I know but it did mean we really saw the garden with our own eyes and not through the lens.

    • There I was, lamenting I wouldn’t get to see any pix of your visit to Highgrove, when I remembered a book on my shelves. Published 20 years ago it’s largely about the organic farming philosophy that was a bit new at the time, so the garden pix are a bit thin. But I do love a pic of HRH in his corduroys on hands and knees in the dirt planting out seedlings.

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