dan pearson studio

Chatsworth Laurent Perrier Garden
















The place

The Royal Horticultural Society’s annual show has been held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea since 1912. The 2015 show was the stage for more than 30 show gardens by designers including Adam Frost, Jo Thompson, James Basson and Marcus Barnett.

The brief

We were invited by Laurent-Perrier and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to create a show garden that was a tribute to Chatsworth’s grounds and history. The challenge was to find something in the grounds, which are primarily about grand gestures, that could be conveyed on a show garden site and with relevance to the general public.

The design

On the prominent Triangle position, which can be viewed from all three sides, we celebrated the wilder, more romantic and less well-trodden corners of Chatsworth’s 105-acre gardens. The scheme took two main areas as its inspirations: the monumental rockery and the ornamental Trout Stream, a narrow rivulet of water running in soft loops through the top of the garden, both of which were designed by Joseph Paxton, the Victorian engineer-cum-landscape architect who shaped Chatsworth’s huge vistas. It was Dan’s first appearance at Chelsea since 2004.

There were two outstanding gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show this year: Dan Pearson’s monumental evocation of the rockery and trout stream at Chatsworth, which won Best in Show, and James Basson’s recreation of a perfumier’s garden in Grasse, which won a gold medal. As installations, they could not have been more different, but what they had in common was a sense of truth. Both gardens were made by designers who have trained themselves to properly look at landscapes – both natural and man-made – and to understand how they co-exist.

The rocks Pearson used were left over from Paxton’s vast creation, and were lying in the Derbyshire undergrowth, attracting soft layers of moss and liverworts, even wild flowers. Astonishingly, this overlay survived all the handling, craning, and shifting necessary to stack the rocks into the dramatic tors Pearson had envisaged. They rose majestically between the equally mature trees that looked as though they must always have been on the Chelsea triangle. From a well disguised pool, water trickled over the face of a rock into the narrow stream that wound through the site, with absolutely convincing grassy banks either side.

The planting, as well as the landscaping, balanced triumphantly on the most difficult of tightropes. The design was arresting, but absolutely believable. The planting was complex, yet showed great sensitivity to the way things happen in the wild, particularly the way that a plant seeds itself out from its starting point. Pearson was not afraid to keep planting in some areas quite sparse, as if the underlying soil were the restraint.

Paxton took several years to make his rockery. Pearson had just 18 days. Triumphantly, he has pulled off the most difficult trick of all: to make the made look not made.

Anna Pavord | The Independent

I did manage to get an aerial view of the Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden by clambering up the rocks, where at the summit there is the surprise of a circular well pool fringed in sweet woodruff. From the swooning reactions on Monday, there was little doubt that Dan Pearson’s magical wild garden was going to win the Best Show Garden award. It is indeed a masterpiece from a designer at the top of his game. 

“You just can’t imagine the work that has gone into it, and yet Dan makes it look so easy. Not a single rock has even been scratched. You would swear it had always been there,” said judge Dougal Philip. “He has caught the spirit of Chatsworth beautifully,” the Duke of Devonshire told me. “But taking the legacy and moving it on, as Joseph Paxton moved it on in the past.”

Dan’s originality and bravery is in carrying Chelsea horticulture into such an extreme naturalism, where a laburnum is shown still leafless and yellow azaleas are displayed with dead, lichen-encrusted branches and deer-munched trunks. “He challenges your idea of what a garden is,” Piet Oudolf commented. 

“Dan often talks about coming to Chelsea when he was young and being inspired by Beth Chatto’s planting. Here he has moved that emotion, plant knowledge and ecology outdoors into one of the biggest gardens we have ever seen. Breathtaking,” said plantswoman Tania Compton.

Stephen Lacey | The Daily Telegraph

Why were so many people moved to tears by Dan Pearson’s garden at Chelsea?

I admit to being someone who cries at novels and paintings and brass bands and choirs, as well as at views of the sea, but I can’t remember when I last cried at the sight of a garden. And a Chelsea garden at that. I was not alone; plenty of people said they felt similarly emotional. My first thought was that the reason it struck such a well of emotion, was that here, for once, among the dross and showmanship of Chelsea, was a real place that felt as though it had been there forever.

Dan Pearson has always been enviably sensitive to place, which may be why his style is less definable than other designers. He can respond to Rome, or Japan or a Devon headland and make whatever he touches more itself. Added to a strong idea and a sense of place, the Chelsea creation was a lesson in how to handle scale. The rocks and ruined carcass of an oak were awesome in the proper sense of the word, but in the detailed planting the tiny ordinary flowers were not forgotten. Of course, there was horticulture of the highest order, but it was not the self-conscious sort. 

Real works of art are not something that can be analysed or copied. Those of us who saw the Chelsea Chatsworth were lucky.

Mary Keen | The Telegraph

A happy chance took us to the Flower Show on the first fine day of the week, Thursday, when Chelsea was looking at it’s sunny and cool, sparkling, rain-washed best. I feel a heavy responsibility as I ponder the annual Trad Award. (The rules are simple: it’s the garden I like best). This year, for once, I fully agreed with the RHS judges: the Chatsworth/Laurent Perrier/Dan Pearson garden was not just the best in the show, but the best ever in my Chelsea experience.

Dan Pearson’s genius is to extract a subsection, as it were, to install it at Chelsea, and to present it as an exotic meadow garden of wild and not-so-wild flowers. Even the dead leaves scattered in the grass came from Chatsworth; romantic realism can hardly go further. A list of plants does nothing to express their happy intermingling. An example: a single Welsh poppy acting the weed, ‘a plant in the wrong place’ among pink primulas, just skews the scheme into complete conviction: this could surely never have been on a drawing board.

Hugh Johnson | Tradescant’s Diary



Chatsworth & Laurent Perrier





2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show | Best Show Garden

2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show | Gold Medal

Allan Pollok-Morris

Laurent Perrier

Construct Films for Crocus