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Garden Kitchens to Fire Up Chelsea

Cooking and eating outdoors is a theme at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year. JEMIMA NELSON picks three gardens to feast in

 Jemima Nelson   Spring 2023

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 #ChelseaFlowerShow #Savills #LondonSquare #Hamptons




London Square Community Garden

The inspiration for the London Square Community Garden came from the Doddington and Rollo Community Roof Garden in Battersea, south-west London.

Hidden behind towers blocks on the top of an old car park on the Doddington and Rollo estate is a half-acre secret garden, created by volunteers. 

It has been built almost entirely with donated plants, trees, shrubs, compost and tools, from the likes of Kew Gardens and Battersea Park.

Housebuilder London Square discovered the garden after sponsoring the Open Gardens Weekend, run by the London Gardens Trust, last year, where over 100 green spaces opened to the public, with the Doddington garden taking part.

“We went along and found a green oasis filled with local people and garden visitors enjoying jerk chicken cooked on the barbecue and relaxing in the sun trap garden, blooming with summer flowers and produce,” says Jo McDonagh, sales and marketing director of London Square.

The space is divided into five areas with edible crops, butterfly friendly plants, and fig, cherry and apple trees. 

Local residents grow produce for their own use and also share it out – anything from cauliflowers, cabbages, pumpkins and leeks to chillis, ginger and turmeric. A grapevine has been planted and a small greenhouse produces tomatoes and peppers.

“The garden is a place to meet, to escape to and to discover the joy of growing plants and food – a splash of green in a grey, urban setting, providing a haven for everyone,” says McDonagh.   

Below the garden in the converted car park is a space occupied by STORM, a charity providing support for victims and their families affected by domestic violence and offers training and support services to young and older people, including a lunch club for the elderly.

“We were so inspired by the people we met and the garden at Doddington that we decided to sponsor a garden with real social purpose at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We want visitors to Chelsea to see how similar spaces could be created throughout the capital in the most unlikely settings through clever design,” adds McDonagh. 



“It also reflects London Square’s ethos of providing that vital connection between people through communal gardens at the heart of the neighbourhoods we build. We ensure that every home we build has private outside space and a communal courtyard or garden square with places to sit and relax, and increasingly, spaces for barbecues, set in landscaped grounds.”

The London Square Community Garden is being designed by James Smith.

“Bringing together a community is the living thread weaving through every aspect of this garden. There are two contrasting areas of what would be a larger garden. A welcoming meeting space with a large table for relaxing, eating and drinking under the shade of a pergola. Areas have been designed for growing produce and sharing, playing games,” says Smith.

“There is an outdoor kitchen for preparing and cooking food. A path leads to a calming oasis to escape, with a tranquil planted area, a swing seat for unwinding and a spot under the dappled canopy of a tree.”

This is the second time London Square has sponsored a garden at Chelsea, winning Gold with a design by Jo Thompson in 2014.

London Square plans to relocate the most suitable elements of the show garden to the Doddington garden. The company is also currently donating and installing raised bed gardens in schools, mental health facilities and community centres across inner London boroughs. 

Savills Garden

Savills is sponsoring a garden designed by Mark Gregory, five times a Chelsea Gold Medal winner.

The Savills Garden showcases ornamental and edible planting, providing inspiration for plot-to-plate al fresco dining experiences. The garden will feature the show’s first-ever working kitchen. 

“It has been designed to evoke the experience of stepping into the intimate walled garden, seasonal potager setting of a country hotel, providing both a sanctuary and a source of the very best in flavours and nutrition,” says Richard Rees, managing director of Savills.

At the heart of the garden is a working kitchen and adjoining dining area, where guests can enjoy meals prepared with ingredients from the potager and walled garden beyond, cementing the relationship between grower, guests and chef. 

Mark selected KönigOutdoor as being the perfect partner to help deliver Chelsea’s first ever working kitchen garden. KönigOutdoor is a sophisticated high-end solution for aspirational outdoor living. Combining luxurious sintered stone surfaces with a durable weatherproof structure, a KönigOutdoor kitchen provides the look of an indoor kitchen; with the ability to withstand the elements outdoors.

The concept allows visitors to rest under a mature tree, taking time to reconnect with nature, enjoying the formal planting, while anticipating the tasting experience to come. 

“The aim will be to help change the way we think about our gardens, the way we eat and source our food, and to share ideas and knowledge that can be introduced into even the smallest spaces,” says Rees.

Following the show, in keeping with its sustainability commitment, Savills will work with national charity Shaw Trust, which supports people facing disadvantage to find a way into fulfilling work and to build a strong sense of personal wellbeing, and the garden will be relocated to Nottinghamshire.

Savills will also be working with charity partner Rethink Food, focused on education children on food security, sharing learnings from the garden.

Designer Mark Gregory, founder of Landform Consultants, says: “I think the garden will speak to a lot of people and has, at its core, elements that are very close to my heart; a beautiful space, created considerately, that brings people together to enjoy fantastic food and great times. The garden will be a feast both for the eyes and for the palate.”

Hamptons Mediterranean Garden

The property theme is continued at Chelsea Flower Show with estate agent Hamptons sponsoring a Sanctuary Garden in partnership with Garden Club London, working with Italian designer Filippo Dester and multiple Gold medal winner Tony Woods.

Inspired by the architecture, warm tones and sculptural planting of the Mediterranean landscape of his homeland and with climate change in mind, Dester has created the Hamptons Mediterranean Garden. 

The garden is a contemporary outdoor living space with the look, feel and smell of sunny Mediterranean climes. It combines an outdoor kitchen with shady open-air dining and space to relax and enjoy cooking.

With home entertaining on the rise, Hamptons Mediterranean Garden is the ideal outdoor entertaining space that extends the kitchen as the heart of the home from inside to outside.

“It is a peaceful and relaxing garden designed to capture all the elements of convivial entertaining in a sweet smelling, al fresco setting. The garden with its soothing perfume of aromatic herbs; clever use of aromatherapy and essential oils to aid healing, and edibles to forage and nourish, aims to promote a sense of wellbeing, while having a clear environmental mandate,” says Dester.

The outdoor kitchen is enclosed by a walled pergola to create an area of shade for an additional private room for family and friends. 

Lesley Cairns, managing director of Hamptons, says: “Following our Gold win last year, we’re delighted to be partnering with Garden Club London again to create Hamptons Mediterranean Garden. Over the last few years, the garden has become a pivotal part of the home and used in so many different ways, but primarily as a place to escape, relax and entertain. We are creating a space that is an extension of the home, using recycled and sustainable materials that celebrate the rise in home entertaining.”

Dester says connection is a central theme of the garden: “A large table where family and friends gather to share food and each other’s company is a fundamental element of the Italian lifestyle, but as important is the connection between people and nature which can be experienced in a well-designed garden.”

RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23-27 May.


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