Jinny Blom’s Sentebale garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Jinny Blom
Jinny Blom

Jinny Blom is no stranger to designing Chelsea show gardens for the royals. In 2002 she designed the Healing Garden in collaboration with HRH Prince Charles, but in 2013 it is the turn of his son, HRH Prince Harry and his charity, Sentebale.

Creating a Chelsea show garden is no easy task. She tells us she’s in weight training three times a week because she does all her own planting. Her design will use around 4,500 plants and she says “if you’re lifting those repetitively for 5 or 6 days it’s a lot of work – it’s a massive workout.”

‘Sentebale’ is actually a word from the Sesotho language spoken by the Basotho people of Lesotho. Translated into English, it means ‘forget-me-not’. The name was chosen for the charity by the prince in memory of his mother.

Jinny has already taken Prince Harry through the model of the garden and he’s up to speed on all of it. “He’s not remote from it” she says.

She hopes it will raise the profile of Sentebale and its good work. “You can’t have too much of that sort of charitable work,” she says.

Jinny had never heard of Lesotho  before the Chelsea commission. Her first trip was in April 2013 and she was very pleased it looked how she imagined!

She found a lot of similarities between the UK and Lesotho. “Weirdly its very damp and green and it’s beautiful. There are willows in the river valleys and there are pines and they are very  straightforward plants for us.”

“If you are trying to make something for a garden for Chelsea Flower Show in the centenary year, and you want people to walk up and down Main Avenue and enjoy it, it has to be an enjoyable experience, so you can’t go into a plant palette that nobody understands.”

Jinny with Robin and Mark from Hortus Loci and the willows being grown for her garden
Jinny with Robin and Mark from Hortus Loci and the willows being grown for her garden

Her garden design is not a pastiche of Africa – it’s a modern garden based on aspects of Lesotho. There just wouldn’t be the plants for a full re-creation. ” I went for texture in the end,” she says.

Many of the plants for the show garden are being grown at specialist nursery Hortus Loci run by Mark Straver and Robin Wallis. Jinny has known Mark and Robin for a long time and says Robin’s plant knowledge is second to none. They are growing thousands of plants for her, including the all important forget-me-nots. Only the best will make the final garden.

After the show is over, none of the plants will be wasted and many will come back to the nursery in Hook to be sold to the public. The structures in the garden will also be put to good use. The terrace and pavilion will be auctioned at a Kensington Palace charity gala night to help raise vital funds for Sentebale.

The garden is being sponsored by Hampshire-based DIY giants B&Q.

You can see the finished garden on Main Avenue (MA16) at Chelsea Flower Show from Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 May.