Sourcing Flysch For The Facebook Garden At RHS Chelsea
Brighton designer Joe Perkins has worked on many RHS Chelsea gardens over the years. This year will be his 12th year at the show, but this year he is going solo with The Facebook Garden: Beyond The Screen, sponsored by social media giants Facebook.
With his garden, Joe aims to add balance to all the negative press social media gets by celebrating the more than often overlooked positives of time spent on social media, and to start a conversation on how it can be used to make positive changes in the real world. Joe states, “Obviously, the negatives are mental health and wellbeing, and all the headlines we’ve read about. But social media isn’t going away, so let’s look at what’s good about it, talk about what’s bad and see if we can actually produce a healthy discussion about how we can move forward. “While you can argue that young people have less inclination to go out and engage with nature, you could equally argue that they’re doing a lot of positive stuff online, and a lot of that involves gardening,”
The message Joe and indeed Facebook are trying to get across is that time spent on social media can prove meaningful. Time spent connecting with friends and family, engaging in community groups and projects and sharing interests and passions with like-minded people can enrich lives and can make a positive impact in the real world. Joe relates, ‘I’ve witnessed first-hand the positive impact of social media. Facebook and Instagram have helped me build my business, keep in touch with friends and family, and get inspiration from all over the world for my work.’
You might imagine The Facebook Garden will be high-tech, featuring state of the art technology and giant HD screens, but Joe’s garden is far from it, his design is, in fact, coastal themed. Joe tells us, ‘The garden is inspired by trips with my children to the Atlantic coast of Northern Spain where they have benefited from interaction with another environment and culture. I see my children growing up as part of the digital generation, so the garden seeks to express my hope that technology and social media can be a force for good when used constructively.’
Almost every aspect of Joe’s design is representative of the interconnectivity between our lives, on and offline and the influence social media has in the real world. From the plants sourced from different countries but all sharing tolerance of particular conditions representing shared interests and community groups on social media to the layered rocks which show how natural forces have changed the landscape, just as social media has changed our world and the ways we socialise in it.
It is these dramatic rock formations in Joe’s design which led him to get in touch with CED Stone Group. Joe first emailed our MD Giles Heap back in January. He gave Giles the brief, and pictures of the coastal rock formations he was trying to replicate.
In geological terms this is a flysch formation, our resident geologist Simon Copsey tells us, ‘Flysch formations are created during mountain building episodes where tectonic plates collide. They form in the deep ocean and are made up of alternating shale layers which form from deep sea mud and sandstone layers formed by underwater landslides. As the plates collide the surrounding area becomes deformed causing the beds to tilt and fold to form spectacular scenery.’
But how do you make replica flysch!? Giles’ first thought was that Caithness stone might be suitable due to its natural ability to be easily split into large slabs. Together with Giles, Joe took a trip to the Northern Highlands in Scotland to meet with our partners at Norse Stone and view the stone, stopping briefly for a bit of Nessie hunting.
When asked if he felt this trip was beneficial Joe told us, ‘The trip was certainly worth it, and as Giles thought the Caithness was entirely suitable for the design. The mudstone is not dissimilar to the stone in the photographs sent to Giles, it is beautiful in colour and texture, and it comes in large pieces. It is perfect, and I am very excited.’
While at the quarry Joe selected certain pieces and left the rest of his requirements in the capable hands of Michael Ronaldson and his team at Norse Stone who had everything quarried, palletised and transported down to our Castlecary Depot. The reason for this stop in the stone’s journey to Chelsea was to give the contractors building the garden a chance to see the stone and get an idea of how to work with it at the build. The Outdoor Room, are building The Facebook Garden and David Dodd tells us they are no strangers to show gardens, “This year The Outdoor Room are building The RHS ‘Back To Nature’ Garden, co-designed with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, The Facebook Garden ‘Beyond The Screen’ designed by Joe Perkins and The Pots and Pithoi trade stand, designed by The Outdoor Room. We’ve built over 20 gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show and it’s always a pleasure working with the the finest craftsmen and suppliers in the industry.’ ‘This year we visited the Castlecary depot to mock up a section of the huge Caithness stone feature for the Facebook garden. The staff at CED couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive and they’ve all really bought into the garden. it was a fantastic team effort all round!’
The Outdoor Room’s Mark Britton and David Dodd joined Joe and Giles at our Castlecary Depot and with the help of foreman Pat Hughes driving the forklift the colossal starter stones were positioned as per Joe’s design, giving a preview of how the garden will look.
The stone is now at the showground and the build is underway. Joining the team on the build are some young ambassadors from Groundwork. Groundwork is a charity which works with young people in the most disadvantaged parts of the UK to transform lives in the communities around them, improve their prospects and to live and work in a greener way. Facebook is working with Groundwork engaging young volunteers in the garden build, and they will also be directly involved in its relocation after the show when the garden will be re-homed in the local community. Read more about their partnership here.
We have loved working with Joe and the team and are so very happy found him the perfect material for his design. We would like to wish the whole Facebook Garden team the very best of luck with the build and judging. We look forward to seeing the completed garden when the show opens on 21st May.