Skip navigation

Chelsea Flower Show with garden designer Alistair Bayford

30 January 2019

Here, Alistair Bayford – our Landscape Architect for our RHS Chelsea Flower Show – talks about our garden’s concept, in the first of our series of blogs in the lead up to the show.

We’re now 109 days away from the gates opening at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and our Family Monsters Garden exhibit to celebrate the significant milestones for idverde (100 years) and Family Action (150 years) being on display to those visiting.

Over the coming months in the lead up to the show I’ll be blogging to introduce key aspects of the garden and the suppliers involved in the project; snippets from behind the scenes and more about the fantastic team behind the garden. We’ll also be promoting Family Action’s Family Monsters Project and encouraging readers to join the conversation and get involved throughout the year. This garden is very much a physical representation of the Family Monsters Project.

So, I’d better start with introducing myself. I’m a Chartered Landscape Architect by profession and my day job sees me leading the London and South East Projects and Professional Services team for idverde, delivering public realm and park improvement projects for local authority and main contractor clients. Our projects range in scale and typology – from Heritage Lottery Funded parks projects like Houghton Hall Park for Central Bedfordshire to Beckenham Place Park for London Borough of Lewisham; purely hard landscaped public realm like National Theatre to soft landscaped like our works at the RIBA Sterling Prize shortlisted Storey’s Field Centre delivering a landscape designed by Sarah Price.

My roots are firmly in horticulture and see my job as a vocation and incredibly honoured to be involved in the projects that have touched my career. I graduated from Writtle University College in 2004 with a 1st Class Honours degree in Landscape and Garden Design. In the same year I exhibited my first show garden, ‘Take time to’, at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. I then moved on to complete my Post Graduate Diploma in Landscape Architecture at University of Greenwich in 2006, the same year exhibiting, ‘Caged’ at RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the first time – a bit of a pattern emerging here! I’d previously had the opportunity to help stage ‘Morning Dew’ by Stephen Hall in 2003.

In 2007 I exhibited again with ‘23 Paved Green Terrace’, at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show with a garden dedicated to the plight of front gardens providing a green alternative to accommodating the car.

“The garden represents the journey of a family unit”

In 2009 I commenced working on Olympic related projects and in 2012 took the role of Park Manager for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for idverde, responsible for overseeing the mobilisation of the maintenance contract – one of the many highlights of my career to date. The proudest is knowing that we took local people of all ages, backgrounds and life circumstances and brought them into the industry. These were individuals with no previous experience or indeed interest in horticulture. 7 years on they have grown with the contract and responsible for managing one of the most diverse and complex horticultural assets within a freely accessible public open space. Skills and future talent are very important to me.

In 2017 we enabled Ian Price to bring his gold medal winning garden Mind Trap to RHS Chelsea, working with Cormac Conway and rising talent of Ross Conquest and Craig Nester.

The garden shows the pressures faced by every family and the journey families take to face these challenges. From financial problems to health and wellbeing issues, to lack of time together to problems with communication and resolving disputes; the garden represents the range of pressures faced by families in Britain today. The journey to bringing these hidden issues out of the dark and into the open, so that they don’t become overwhelming, can be one of secrecy, shame and isolation, with pressures and progress obscured and hard to resolve.

The garden represents the journey of a family unit facing a problem in their lives, one of mystery and isolation – from every angle it’s different. The garden ends in a family space, a coming together and opportunity to reflect. Ultimately their journey in this garden leads to a family space, where all come together to reflect, get their pressures out in the open and gather strength to face them together. The pool of clear water offers reflection and perspective.

The garden can be viewed from 360 degrees, sits in an amoebic footprint, has no definitive shape and is unbound. This represents the diversity of our families, that no one family is the same and that the monsters they hide will be personal to them.

Birch and Hazel coppice, creating partial enclosure, shelter and refuge bound the garden offering filter views in and out. These species represent the younger generation and pioneers at the start of their lives. A large gnarly pine tree baring represents symbolically the older generation within a family unit. Shrubs provide structure and obscure views into the garden. Planting underlying the coppice is predominantly green with flushes of colour and diversity, using native and non-native species to represent the diversity of our families.

Do keep tuned in with our blogs as we’ll be introducing our suppliers next time and some behind the scenes footage.

Join the Family Monsters Project
We want to get everybody to join the conversation and get talking about their family monsters, no matter how big or small, so we can face them together. You can get involved by using #MyFamilyMonsters on social media – follow our socials to stay up-to-date. As well as, starting a conversation or getting support.

Watch four families in our new project’s film who are struggling with everyday pressures: