How Chorley garden designer and sculptor John Everiss is creating a RAF Benevolent Fund Garden for Chelsea Flower Show 2022

What does it take to create an award winning garden for the Chelsea Flower Show?

By Fiona Finch
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:30 pm

One man who certainly knows the answer to that is John Everiss, a Gold award winning landscape garden designer from Chorley.

He has shared his insight into the mix of inspiration and perspiration it takes to make a garden for the prestigious RHS show.

As creator of this year’s RAF Benevolent Fund Garden, he can attest to the months that go into the making of such a garden – even if it is built from scratch in just a few weeks at the London show site.

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John and George Everiss take a closer look at the statue created for the RAF Benevolent Fund Garden

A garden designer for 30 years, John used to have Bezza Nursery at Samlesbury and in the last nine years has also designed garden sculptures.

It is a matter of pride for John that this year’s Chelsea garden and sculpture will ultimately get a permanent and fittingly located home within a larger commemorative garden which John has designed for London’s Biggin Hill Airport.

His entry is one of 14 charity-based entries sponsored by charity Project Giving Back at the May 24-28 show.

John said: “It’s important for charities to get a fillip after Covid because of all the issues with fund raising.”

A Chelsea garden is months or even years in the making - here John (left) shows Lancastrian Paralympian and RAF veteran Stuart Robinson some of the plants which were grown at Bannister Hall Nursery at Walton le Dale for the garden. Stuart will be a VIP visitor to the garden at Chelsea.

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This year it’s a family affair, as son George, a physics graduate, has played a key role in design work for the garden’s structures and main sculpture, a 12 foot high sculpture of a RAF serviceman looking skywards.

John said: “It’s all been designed by myself and my son.

"The sculpture is made up of 223 individual layers of stainless steel. The actual construction was by Fitzpatricks UK of Nelson.”

John Everiss visits Fitzpatricks to see work in progress on the sculpture of a Battle of Britain pilot

The garden will feature a dry stone wall of Purbeck stone which will spiral round the sculpture.

There are also laser cut steel feature panels with a lace like design located around the garden, interspersed with the VIPs – very important plants.

Look out for a seven foot high cloud pruned camellia. John said: “Running through the rest of the garden we have a tapestry of azaleas, camellias and a more open area and another story of woodland style planting.

"It’s quite restful and peaceful with muted colours.”

Clsoe up of the sculpture which will feature in The RAF Beneveolent Fund Garden at Chelsea Flower Show

He continued: “I’ve grown about 1,000 of the plants myself - geraniums, cow parsley, Cirsium, foxglove … It’s quite difficult growing plants in Lancashire for Chelsea – half have been grown here and half in Hampshire.

"The thing about Chelsea is you never know the weather; you have to have Plan A, B, C and D to cover all the bases.

"I’ve probably got in the region of 2,500 plants growing and I’ll probably use 1200/1300 at Chelsea. The rest I’ll use in other projects.“

He outlined his timetable which began on May 6 with the build. Then, he says, “the plants follow me down the following week so we then have a week to build the garden”.

"At the end of the show all the plants will come back to Lancashire to have a bit of TLC (tender loving care). Two weeks after we get back we start the rebuild down in Kent.

"Chelsea is essentially a piece of theatre, we’re creating the illusion of a garden that’s always been there.”

John who studied at Myserscough College, has previously won Golds and a People’s Choice award at Chelsea.