Dan Pearson's award winning Chatsworth show garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2015
The overall view - based on Joseph Paxton's trout stream and rock garden

When I heard Dan Pearson was returning to Chelsea after an absence of 11 years, I got very excited. Then when I learned his design would be based on the famous rock garden at Chatsworth, I was both excited and afraid.

Why the fear? Well, I've usually been disappointed when designers talk about using a particular garden as their inspiration. I either fail to see the connection between reality and the show, or to my untrained eye it's a pastiche.

In this case I needn't have worried. Dan Pearson's show garden is a triumph and even more remarkable because it's on the show's notoriously difficult Triangle plot. It deservedly won Best in Show and was the buzz of the gardening press on Monday. His sense of place and attention to detail made it seem like it had been there forever. It promises to be one of the gardens talked about for many years to come.

Why the excitement? There's a deep resonance with this garden, both for me and the RHS. Chatsworth is owned by the Duke of Devonshire, whose Chiswick home in the 1800s was next door to the RHS's then headquarters. The Duke spotted promise in one of the RHS's young gardeners - Joseph Paxton - and eventually lured him away to gardening greatness at Chatsworth.

Planting detail on Dan Pearson's Chatsworth show garden for Chelsea Flower Show 2015
No crevice left unfilled. Exquisitely detailed planting with a Robinsonian-style mix of wild and cultivated plants

Furthermore, rock gardens were a popular feature at Chelsea in the 20th century and were a forerunner to the show gardens we see today. Their former position in the grounds is immortalised in today's Rock Garden Bank. Dan Pearson's garden is right opposite that area.

For me, the resonance lies in my visit to Chatsworth with NAH when we holidayed in Derbyshire 10 years ago. We always indulge in some keen negotiation when deciding our holiday activities; one trip to a heritage railway equals a day spent at a garden.

The view from the topp of Chatsworth's rock garden in 2005
The view from the top of Chatsworth's rock garden in 2005

Chatsworth turned out to be a breakthrough visit. We'd spent a happy day there and particularly enjoyed the climb to the top of the rock garden to admire the view. NAH turned to me and said. "You know, I don't mind coming on garden visits, when they're like this".

He of course denies all knowledge of making this surprising statement, but you and I dear reader know differently don't we?


  1. My other half has a habit of forgetting such breakthrough statements as well, so I know exactly what you mean. I thought Dan's garden looked wonderful, well deserving of Best in Show. It makes me feel that I want to sit there for the afternoon and take it all in. Beautiful.

    1. There are 'benches' placed around the outside of the same material as the boardwalk footpath through the garden, CJ. I was so tired on Sunday, I nearly sat down on one and then remembered it wasn't a convenient bench, it was part of the show garden and it hadn't had its final judging yet! I'm sure plenty of people at the show this week will try to do the same, unless they've been roped off.

  2. An enjoyable post, and wonderful pictures. Flighty xx

  3. Ha ha, good job one of you knows the truth indeed! Like you I hang onto words of encouragement to use later!

  4. Dan's garden does look stunning, definitely deserved the accolades. I must put Chatsworth on my must-visit list!

    1. It's an amazing garden. It's famous for many things - the kitchen garden is my favourite :-)


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