RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018 Press Release




Press Release 26 May 2018 – for immediate use

Yorkshire garden designer’s debut at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Preparations are in full swing for the first RHS Show garden to be designed by Mary Swan.  ‘Turning Point’ is Mary’s garden in the Long Borders category of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show.  It captures the transition from late spring to early summer.

At home Mary has made her own 100-foot-long Long Border which is like a slice of a grand country house garden transported to suburban Leeds.  Mary says “It’s my test bed for planting design, where I experiment to see which plants work together visually and practically so I can give my clients the best planting for their gardens.  From time to time I completely replant my Long Border as my design style evolves. That’s a huge amount of work but I see it as an occupational hazard!”.

As well as running her garden design business Mary writes about gardens and garden design and gives talks to local garden groups around the country.  She is also a part-time tutor in Garden Design and Horticulture at the Northern School of Garden Design, Craven College, Skipton. 

During her training at Craven College Mary designed and built four Harrogate Flower Show gardens with her classmates.  She’s also helped plant two show gardens at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, but as she says, “This is the first time the buck absolutely stops with me”. 

The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show is the RHS’s newest flower show, now in its second year.  In 2017 around 95,000 visitors attended the show and 90% were from the North or Midlands.  The theme of this year’s RHS Chatsworth Long Borders is Movement. ‘Turning Point’ captures the transition from late spring freshness to midsummer plenty.  It is a traditional Long Border moved into the 21stcentury with naturalistic planting design, designed for a windy site with plants in motion, arching into rippling waves.  A striking, sculptural, curving screen divides the border, snakes through the planting and then circles in on itself. 

‘Turning Point’ is full of ideas for creating an atmosphere in sun and shade in gardens large and small.


Notes for editors

Mary Swan is available for interview: contact details below.


Mary retrained in horticulture and garden design after a career of more than 20 years in academia. She was a Senior Lecturer in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds, specialising in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Her former career has given her a deep appreciation of the ways in which landscapes change over time and how every place has layers of meaning.  Since childhood Mary has been a slightly obsessive domestic gardener; her career change means that she now spends most of her time giving  other people lovely gardens and still has to squeeze in time to work on her own!

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Mary will begin making her Show Garden on 1 June and the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show is open to the public from 6 June to 10 June.  Press and Preview Day is 5 June. 

Horticultural notes

The main plant supplier for ‘Turning Point’ is the internationally renowned Dove Cottage Nursery, Shibden, Halifax.  Mary’s planting design is in two parts: on the south-facing side grasses catch the wind and dance amongst the foliage, stems and buds of herbaceous plants. Rounded forms of shrubs give density as a foil to the loose herbaceous planting. The whole border is anchored by a feature shrub at its western end, tipping the screen down to its lowest point and extending its canopy over the shade-loving plants on the north-facing side. Here shrubs and grasses balance those on the south-facing side and interweave with loose, subtle, textural herbaceous planting. 


Contact details

 Media contact

Mary Swan

Mary Swan Gardens


07528 756664


Mary Swan Gardens





07528 756664


RHS Chatsworth Flower Show



Northern School of Garden Design, Craven College




Wm. Spence – metal screen fabricator, Bradford



Dove Cottage Nursery – main plant supplier, Shibden, Halifax


RHS Chatsworth: making the screen

Mike Bowen, General Manager of Wm. Spence, is a vital part of my Chatsworth show garden preparation.  He’s been liaising with me about the curving, sculptural metal screen which is a key element of my Long Border design.


This morning I went for a meeting with Mike and Ben Howarth of Innoscape and John Anderson who will be installing the screen with me on the show ground.  








I’d expected to be able to discuss details and check on progress so I was delighted to find that we could actually watch the screen panels being made by Wm. Spence’s super high-tech laser cutter.  





It was amazing to watch the laser cutter’s balletic tracing of shapes I’d drawn only a few weeks ago and to see the screen taking form in front of me.  Below is a video of the laser cutter at work – I could have watched it all day!


RHS Chatsworth Show Garden

In less than three weeks I start building a show garden at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show.  My garden is in the Long Border category and is called ‘Turning Point’.   It’s designed to embody the shift from late spring to early summer and the ways in which gardens are always in motion.  Here’s a sneak preview of the feel of the planting:



And here I am deep in consultation with Kim Rogers of Dove Cottage Nursery who are very kindly growing most of my plants.  Kim’s excellent eye and encyclopaedic knowledge of good herbaceous perennials have been invaluable as I’ve refined my plant list.


As well as plant wrangling I’ve been liaising with my main sponsor: Wm. Spence, a Bradford-based steel fabricator.  They’re making the sculptural screen I’ve designed to curve through my show garden planting.

The coming weeks will be full of last-minute planning and panicking.  I’m keen to get to Chatsworth and start transferring the show garden from my mind to that gorgeous site.