The work of a Garden Designer is varied and interesting and occasionally requests arrive for something out of the ordinary. Last week I received a call from BBC Breakfast who were featuring the Britain in Bloom competition on the show. To celebrate this they had the idea of having a garden in the studio; this was a creative idea but they didn’t have the knowledge to realise it, which is when I was called upon and the project got underway.
The process of designing a garden and bringing that design to fruition takes place over a period of months. Even after the garden is built it will be several years before the plants mature enough to give the full effect as intended. I was approached by the BBC a week before the garden was required and I spent only 15 minutes in the studio a few days before the show to ascertain what they required.
My experience of producing show gardens helped in this situation, as like a show garden this was a bit of theatre, a studio set. The main points to consider were the limitations of the studio, a small, warm space with a low ceiling and the time constraints. From some initial measurements I worked out the dimensions of the staging on which we could position the plants; the garden was being created behind a sofa which was on a raised plinth. I needed two tiered staging to allow for small plants at the front and taller ones along the back. I also needed to cover the presenters’ desk with planting and frame the area with planters.
With all the various points to consider a couple of days was spent planting up containers and preparing the table centre piece. As with a show garden this was just a façade with the plants remaining in their pots and being packed with polystyrene. Specimen plants were also required to stand on the studio floor to give the impression of a fully planted garden. Time was spent selecting these from a nursery, the difficulty being the time of year. In October there isn’t a vast selection of looking good plants so it was a matter of seeing what was available at such short notice. There was also the awkward problem of the set being bright red which isn’t the easiest colour to work with.
After selecting the plants and working out quantities, deliveries to the studio were arranged for the day before. As this is an early morning show it meant a very early start. I arrived at the studio at 3.30am to unpack the plants and set them out on the staging. Time was then spent working out the logistics of moving the various garden components into position in such a tight space. The garden was to appear following an outside broadcast on Britain in Bloom which gave a six minute window to move the garden in to position. There was no time for a practice run so it was just a matter of hoping for the best. I was confident that this would run smoothly as I had planned it to be as effortless as possible with much of the staging being on wheels.
The show started at 6am with the garden slot not being until 9am so there was a lot of time hanging around in the green room (feeling very sleepy). When the time came everything ran like clockwork, even with time to spare and I managed to get through the interview without looking too dishevelled or falling asleep.
When the show finished the plants were all packed away and collected by the nurseries and it was as if it had never existed.
This is far removed from my day to day work and is more like set dressing but it was an enjoyable experience and the BBC were very pleased with the results. The BBC Breakfast studio always looks the same so the garden was a welcome change, particularly for the studio staff who found it rather exciting and queued up to have their photos taken amongst the foliage.
The feedback I received was excellent and even though it was a slightly mad and unreal situation it actually did lead to real commissions which will result in real gardens which will take much longer to create and be there for much longer than a few minutes.
Thank you to everyone who helped out particularly Andy who also had to suffer the 2am start.