Bowles & Wyer returns to RHS Chelsea for Warner Edwards Distillery

Company: Bowles & Wyer

Award-winning landscape contractors Bowles & Wyer will return to RHS Chelsea this year to build a Main Avenue Show Garden for Warner Edwards Distillery, created by garden designer Helen Elks-Smith.

The Warner Edwards Garden, which will be Bowles & Wyer's eighth Show Garden, is inspired by the natural springs at Falls Farm in Northamptonshire – the home of Warner Edwards Distillery – and has been designed using a complicated sequence of structures and techniques to create multiple water features, which run quietly through different areas of the garden creating gentle arcs and streams before they emerge again in the garden. 

Drystone walls will form a central pavilion with two large cantilevered roofs appearing to float above them, from where the water will flow down a central ‘chimney’  through a string of copper ‘fins’ before disappearing into the ground below.

Taking on the challenging build, Bowles & Wyer will be working with Helen and a team of specialists to create the garden including water expert Andrew Ewing.   Other features will include a glass wall created by artist Wendy Newhofer, a large stone water trough lined with copper, and furniture designed by Helen Elks-Smith and made by master craftsman Ben Naylor of Jack Badger, all of which Bowles & Wyer will be coordinating on site to ensure swift and easy transition into the garden.  

Inspired by Warner Edwards Distillery at Falls Farm, the garden references the local Northamptonshire landscape and agricultural heritage, as well as the Farm’s gin distillery throughout its design.  In line with the Warner Edwards ethos of “giving back to nature”, planting will provide good habitats and food sources for birds, insects, bees and butterflies while the chimney is inspired by 'Curiosity', the Warner Edwards gin still.

Structures will be crafted from a simple palette of materials reflecting the heritage of the local landscape as well as the distilling materials of the Warner Edwards Distillery.  Materials will be consistent throughout the garden, so that the drystone walls will be reflected in the paving and the timber furniture will be mirrored in the vertical frieze under the pavilion’s roof.

With so many complex elements to build, Dan Riddleston, Managing Director at Bowles & Wyer, who is leading the project, will undertake much of the construction off-site to ensure enough time is allowed for planting.  This includes the drystone walls as well as the pavilion’s steel frame, the foundations, and some of the water features which will then be carefully reassembled at the showground.

One of the major concerns of the build this year has been ensuring that the plants will be available amid uncertainty about plant passports in the wake of Brexit.  Trees, hedges and shrubs have already been imported and are being grown-on at Deepdale Trees in Bedfordshire, while Rosy Hardy will be growing the remaining plants. 

Having built gardens at RHS Chelsea for over 25 years, Dan Riddleston is familiar with most challenges. He said:  “Helen’s garden has been designed to create a relaxed entertaining space with views to the wider landscape underpinned by subtle, textural planting. There is inevitably a complexity to fitting everything into the small area available at an RHS Show but in terms of space and feel, Helen’s garden is brilliant and our job is to make sure that her design is executed beautifully.  We have worked alongside Helen for many years so to be asked to build her Show Garden for Warner Edwards Distillery was a huge honour.  The project is a collaborative effort between a team of highly skilled craftsmen and we’re thrilled to be part of it.”

Helen Elks-Smith said: “Having worked with Bowles & Wyer over the years, they were the natural choice for me when it came to building this RHS Chelsea Show Garden. Dan brings a wealth of experience with him and is completely unphased by any of the challenges thrown at him.  He also has an excellent behind-the-scenes team. Having complete confidence in them to deliver my vision for the garden and for Warner Edwards Distillery has allowed me to really enjoy the process knowing that it will be built to the highest standard and with meticulous attention to detail which is no mean feat.  It really is a joy working with them all.” 

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