Project Management: Chelsea Flower Show 2014

Project:
I project-managed the build of an 8 x 12m floral exhibit for Jo Thompson, who designed it for the charity Perennial for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014. I was involved from the very beginning, helping to create an exhibit which won a Silver gilt medal for Perennial.

A summary of my involvement in this project, in chronological order, is as follows:

  • Taking the initial concept sketch to a developed design, and creating all CAD drawings and specifications required.
  • Creating 3D visuals for the client (and later for media use) as well as putting presentations together showcasing various elements as they were confirmed, such as hard landscaping details and plant choices
  • Negotiating the supply, for free, of all hard materials and associated labour, which I would estimate as having a market value in excess of £30,000k, from market-leading stone supplier CED
  • Agreeing choices of trees, shrubs, furniture and sculpture to be featured in the garden from a range of suppliers, ensuring value was maximised at all stages.
  • Working with the contractor, Streetscape, and all suppliers outlined above to ensure all items were coordinated and delivered to site as needed
  • Updating the client, designer and all other parties involved as required, via phone calls, emails and face-to-face meetings
  • Being on-site throughout the build-up to solve problems, make sure everything runs smoothly, liaise with the RHS teams as required, work on the build, ensure everyone is happy, provide biscuits and make copious cups of tea
  • Doing what I can to publicise the garden on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, posting updates and trying to ensure that all contributors were thanked profusely and plentifully
  • Being on-site for the break-down, emptying a lot of gabion walls, coordinating the collection of trees, sculpture and many many bags of stone, making more tea.

Read a much more in-depth write-up below.

Client:
Perennial 

Date:
May 2014

Photos:

RHS Chelsea 2014 Perennial -Yellow Quartz Paddlestones in Gabion Inspiration Cages, Cornish SGG Imperial Setts Cedagravel filled with SGG 14mm -  (142)

RHS Chelsea 2014 Perennial -Yellow Quartz Paddlestones in Gabion Inspiration Cages, Cornish SGG Imperial Setts Cedagravel filled with SGG 14mm -  (178)

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The hair on Rachel Ducker’s sculpture worked perfectly with the bright colours of the planting behind.

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The pink tones of the planing were picked up by both the stone and the trunks of the Betula pendula

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RHS Chelsea 2014 Perennial -  (104)

The initial visual, used in the leaflet:

Perennials CFS - v1.8

Photos of the build-up process:

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The gabion walls were constructed at a yard in Stoke-on-Trent, prior to being fixed to the base panels and sent down to London.

This was the sight (site) that greeted us when we got to our plot:

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One of the good things for working for such a well-known charity was that everyone was happy to lend us a hand, including Mark Gregory, Managing Director of Landform Consultants, who used his forklift skills to unload some grab bags of stone:


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Filling the walls took over two full days to complete them, often with around six to eight people working at any one time. That said, the end result made the trouble more than worth while, since they were exactly what I had envisaged, only better:

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The first of many trolleys of plants:

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Once the walls were filled, we raised the interior levels with pallets, then put a geotextile membrane on top and filled it in with soil:

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Then it was time to get on with the planting, which since you’ve seen in much better pictures above, here’s a picture of our awesome smiling team:

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From left to right: Serena Fremantle, Petra Hoye Miller, Yuko, Nina Baxter and Tracey McQue

And once that was done, the walls were capped (an artful and time-consuming job, requiring careful stone selection and placement!), the plants cleaned and spruced up, ready for their week-long role as the stars of a very big show, and the garden readied for visitors…

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Some of the first of whom were my parents, who came for a little wander around the showground on Saturday, kitted out in Streetscape hi-vis vests!

Joe Swift (accompanied by a lot of crew from the BBC) came to film the first of several pieces on the garden on Sunday. This one was just a link (actually talking about the clematis grower behind us!) but there was a 15 minute feature on the garden and the history of Perennial which was broadcast on the Thursday of show week.

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Breakdown was a bit surreal, especially seeing the plot cleared and everything packed into grab bags ready to be collected.

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It was an amazing experience to project manage this build, for a charity as amazing as Perennial as well as at an event as prestigious as Chelsea Flower Show. Hopefully I’ll be back again in some capacity next year!