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Chelsea Flower Show, Concrete thinking.


This week started brilliantly with a trip to see the final samples of the concrete that is going to form all of the hard landscaping within the Chelsea garden next year.  I knew months ago that this would be a basalt based concrete and that the various finishes would be: highly polished, broken edged, acid etched and then there was this other unknown.  I wanted a surface that had the visual qualities of polished concrete that would achieve the terrazzo look but that had depth of texture and importantly for any paving, was non slip.

The acid etched concrete that is being used on the inside of the buildings and the sides of the stairs is too plain as a paving surface and while I’d toyed with the idea of sandblasted, honed and hammered finishes I had a suspicion that what I was after was a more distressed version of the polished concrete.

I arrived at the manufacturers and had lots to discuss with the owner. The samples were all laid out ready for me to see but this one unknown finish was no where to be seen.  I was told it was still being dried off and after an hour the sample got brought into the room for me to see.  Within a second I knew that this was what i’d been looking for.  Bright shiny pieces of polished basalt are surrounded by speckled sand and crushed stone.  The combination is fantastic, without being bling, it has a different quality to anything I’ve seen before and one I’m really excited by.

Unlike my previous gardens at Chelsea where all the slate paving and sculptural elements were made in house by me and my team this is all in the hands of others.  To know that we now have a finish that i’m totally satisfied with is a huge relief.  To ease my discomfort at not making this myself I quickly volunteered to be the person who distresses all the broken elements of the concrete features. Three days sculpting concrete edges is my idea of heaven.  There is nothing quite like having a physical understanding of the material you’re working with and It’s only when I fully experience the sensation of those hard materials that I can really relax in to the world of plants.