Anyone who has ever visited Chatsworth will recognise the influence of its towering, supersized rockery – more of a small cliff, really – in Dan Pearson’s extraordinary garden, his first since 1996. The rocks dominate the design – but almost scuppered it, too, when Thames Water descended on site and halted all work three days into the build. There is a sewer running under this section of the Chelsea Flower Show – who knew? – and stacking several rocks the size of a small car on top was in danger of cracking it (to say nothing of the huge willow trees, which alone weighed two tonnes each).
The Crocus team hastily rethought their design, painstakingly pre-constructed at their Windlesham, Surrey, nurseries, subtracted one willow tree and moved the rocks over a bit: and the result is a garden that’s among the most original and confident show gardens I’ve seen at Chelsea. It’s a masterclass in naturalistic planting and how to create a sense of place even in the smallest spaces. This is one of those game-changing gardens whose influence we’ll still be referring to many years from now.