‘Out of the Shadows’ - Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea Sanctuary Garden

Marrying modern lifestyle with beautiful design. Our post-pandemic gardens are being asked to work harder for us than ever. They are being tasked to not only grow plants, but also to provide an outdoor extension to our homes where we can relax, exercise, entertain and eat. But with these extensive demands, are we losing the very essence of what makes a beautiful garden in the process? Kate Gould's RHS Chelsea Flower Show Sanctuary Garden, ‘Out of the Shadows’ is a lesson in how brilliant garden design can seamlessly incorporate modern lifestyle demands into a beautiful and inspirational garden space to be enjoyed year-round.

‘Out of the Shadows’   Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea Sanctuary Garden Marrying modern lifestyle with beautiful designGardens can work on many different levels – clever design choices can marry up plants to a lifestyle wish list

‘Out of the Shadows’ is a small, contemporary garden which packs a huge punch in terms of the lifestyle it delivers, in a perfectly tranquil and harmonious way. The garden features a state-of-the-art Jacuzzi swim spa for exercising, spaces for seating and relaxation, climbing bars, and a yoga/ meditation space all elegantly situated amongst dramatic and exotic, tropical-style planting. The idea of a functional piece of gymn/ relaxation equipment such as a large swim spa in a garden might seem at odds with a show garden aesthetic, but Kate has cleverly recessed it within the gardens’ natural wood decking and strategically placed perforated brickwork to let light and shadow break across the water. The combination of beautiful design and clever functionality extends across the rest of the garden too, with a social space elegantly diliniated through carefully placed rock seats and a central fire pit, shower and exercise areas. Privacy is created through the use of low hedging, bamboo and decorative brickwork. 

‘Out of the Shadows’ Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea Sanctuary Garden Kate Gould said; “As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, people have certainly become more mindful about creating safe spaces they can hunker down in. They are thinking outside the box in terms of what they want their gardens to deliver when it comes to outdoor living, and they are often not sure how to achieve this within a traditional garden model. With ‘Out of the Shadows’ I want to show people that if they want a swim spa for example, or a space to do yoga, they don’t need to choose between having that and a beautiful garden. It doesn’t need to be an either/ or choice. Have a swim spa, but make it chic. It is as much about coming out of the shadow of the pandemic – and all the ways that has elevated the importance of our gardens – as it is about coming out of quite narrow, traditional views of what a garden needs to be. It can work on so many different levels and clever design choices can marry up lifestyle needs.”

A safe, nurturing feel delivered through a modern, luxury aesthetic

‘Out of the Shadows’ Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea Sanctuary Garden The overall look and feel of ‘Out of the Shadows’ is architectural, contemporary in its minimalism and high-end. A powder-coated metal pergola runs graphic lines of black and bronze above the centre of the garden and the forms within the garden are definite, bold and simple. Plantings are equally strong and defined in style, with swathes of lush, sculptural palms and tropicals giving the garden an exotic, luxurious look. Schellevis concrete slabs used on the garden’s flooring and as stepping stones combine a natural and ultra-modern look. This is also reflected in a raised trough water feature, providing visual symmetry to the larger swim spa, and in the garden’s striking rock seats. The colour pallette is muted, contrasted with evergreen planting set against warm terracotta brickwork and broken up with black, grey and flashes of bronze. This minimalist look is reflected in Kate’s restrained use of materials and in how many of the surfaces of the garden are multi-use. The decking and gravel surfaces are all permeable so rainwater goes back into the soil and the swim spa combines exercise with pampering/ luxury.

Kate said; “I wanted the design of the garden to have a private and tranquil feel and felt this was best achieved with a modern, clean aesthetic. I also wanted the garden to feel very high-end and exclusive. There is something about being in a space which feels luxurious which is safe and nurturing and I think we all need to feel that now. The garden needed to be something you want to linger in, that you feel immediately calmed and refreshed by.” 

Uplifting evergreen planting provides a year-round sanctuary

‘Out of the Shadows’ Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea Sanctuary Garden When it comes to the gardens’ plant scheme, evergreens form the backbone of ‘Out of the Shadows,’ overlaid with a tropical theme. The evergreen focus references how we now want to use and enjoy our gardens 365 days a year, a throwback to lockdown which saw gardens act as indespensible safe havens even in the cooler months. The garden showcases how evergreen schemes provide form, structure and vitality throughout the year and illustrates that a predominantly green planting palette can be uplifting every season. Feature trees, including palms, provide impact (Kate advises that for smaller spaces, larger statement plants and pieces work best visually) and their large branch span contributes to the garden’s hideaway feel. Around the edge of the garden, bamboo combines with low hedging to green the walls of the garden, layering its private, enclosed surround with texture and interest.

Kate said; “As garden designers, we do think seasonally, and I wanted a planting scheme for this garden which would work throughout the year. Evergreens are also good to consider when it comes to being mindful about the environment as they improve air quality and provide a place for birds to nest even in the winter months. They have quite dark leaves, so to avoid the garden looking too moody, I chose plants which have different structures and shapes to add texture.”


For more information: The Kate Gould Gardens