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Kent RHS Chelsea gold medal winner Roger Platts is judging the show this year

By Lesley Bellew

RHS Chelsea gold medal winner Roger Platts is putting his gardening boot on the other foot to become a judge for RHS Chelsea 2014.

The Kent gardener grabbed gold by wowing the RHS Chelsea judges with his M & G Centenary show garden in 2013.

This year, the discerning plantsman will put aside his lucky spade and instead don his favourite Panama hat to join the judging team at all major 2014 RHS shows, including Chelsea.

Roger says he will miss the buzz of exhibiting this year but feels it is ‘healthy’ to take some time away from the pressure. He said: “When you run a nursery and design business it really is hard to create a Chelsea show garden and ensure your clients are being given the attention required.

“It takes about six months from planning to acceptance and design to create a Chelsea garden, then there’s the sourcing of materials, growing hundreds if not thousands of plants, as well as fitting in the related talks, events and so on. I love it but I will thoroughly enjoy being on the other side this year!”

Roger has repeatedly proved he can hit the mark at the world’s most famous flower show and will know exactly how important it is for designers to meet their brief in the Fresh Gardens’ section which he will be judging.

Roger Platt. Picture by Ian West.

Roger Platts. Picture by Ian West.

He said: “We will be looking for gardens that will engage both media and visitors through design innovation and creative use of existing and new materials.

“The RHS is challenging designers to be brave and step outside the perceived traditional Chelsea garden. They can create a space that fits their purpose, concept and budgetary constraints.

“Design, planting and construction will all be equally scrutinised. The designer has to demonstrate he or she has met every criteria.”

Roger will be exempt from judging one garden, The London Square. He said: “I have already declared my interest in this one as I will be supplying some of the plants to a Kent colleague, Cranbrook designer Jo Thompson. I wish her the best of luck but will not be able to be involved in the marking.

“The judging is very strict and it is carried out in stages to ensure consistency. This is such a serious business – the whole world’s eyes are on the event so the RHS is continually evaluating its procedures to achieve the fairest results and the highest quality show gardens.

“A group of assessing judges go round each of the gardens on the day prior to the official judging day.

“They listen to a two-minute presentation from the designer before taking a detailed look and preparing a report for the following day.

“Every judge is required to preview the garden before the judging process takes place and they will have received the designer’s ’Client’s Brief’ to study at least a week before judging.

“On the Monday, the judging team including the assessing judges, meet on the garden and there is plenty of opportunity for discussion before voting for the award.

“It is a tough task because looking at any garden can be subjective and we must be objective, although we are always encouraged to look for the positives.

“It will be very interesting this year after such a mild winter because plants are really ahead. Wisteria and some viburnums are already out.

"Last year, we had the opposite problem, a cold winter and a wet spring, so everything had to be pushed along.

“That’s what makes gardening so interesting!”

RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from Tuesday, May 20 to Saturday, May 24. For information see www.rhs.org.uk

Roger Platts’ private garden, Leydens, in Edenbridge, will be open for the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday, August 3, from noon to 5pm. Tea & cakes available. His adjoining nursery is open year-round. For details visit www.rogerplatts.com

RHS Chelsea awards

RHS medals are given to horticultural exhibits are as a mark of excellence. They are awarded in four grades: Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver and Bronze medals.

There is no limit to the number of medals that can be awarded within each grade – displays are judged according to the set criteria.

The exhibits are judged on:

Overall impression - impact, originality, theatre, scale

Objectives - Have the design objectives been achieved

Construction - material selection, quality, workmanship, finish

Choice of plants - quality, colour, texture, plant association, relevance

Overall design - unity, balance, creativity, spatial awareness

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