Meet Jamie Dunstan, the Chelsea Flower Show’s Nature Boy

With a whole raft of medals to his name, garden designer Jamie Dunstan’s become a familiar face at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. And this centenary year, he picked up a coveted Silver Gilt medal for his ‘As Nature Intended’ show garden, sponsored by Stockton Drillings. We went to meet him to ask about his inspiration for this beautiful contemporary design, and find out how he knows so many A-list celebs...

Jamie, how did you come up with the idea for your garden?

“I wanted to make a garden which included only plants and materials that have a use, and that reflect the area in South Yorkshire where I’m from. I live in a little village surrounded by fields of winter barley, which inspired me to use this lovely crop as an ornamental feature in the garden. We’ve also underplanted it with clover, which releases nitrogen, a main plant nutrient, into the soil to create a natural balance.”

Clever. We also hear that a local brewery have created a beer for the garden. Is this true?

“Well, barley is the main ingredient in beer, and yes, we have a pale ale here that’s named after the garden…fancy a bottle?”

The willow structures are beautiful. Did you make them yourself?

“I designed them, but Emma Stothard, a fantastic sculptor who also lives in Yorkshire, has woven them into these stone-like structures. The willow building frames a sculptural piece of stone, which represents how stone first looks when it’s quarried. And I chose willow because it’s been used for centuries to make all kinds of things, from baskets to cricket bats.”

Funny you should mention cricket bats, because we’ve seen a certain famous cricketer-turned-ballroom dancer perusing your garden. What’s the link?

“I have known Michael Vaughan and his wife for a few years now – we actually met on a skiing holiday. He’s been really supportive, and he knows loads of celebrities, like Jerry Hall, who have also come to the garden, which is great"

We also love the planting at the back of the garden. Tell us a bit about the plants you’ve chosen.

“In this shady woodland area, we’ve kept to the theme of useful plants. So, there are coppiced hazels and yew hedging makes up part of the willow building – an ingredient in the yew is used in some cancer drugs. I’ve also included hornbeam, used to make tool handles and the gear pegs in traditional windmills, and wild flowers, like garlic and foxgloves, to tie in with the natural design.”

Rumour has it that you are a real nature boy, and grow lots of the plants you use in your client’s gardens.

'Yes, I love plants, and feel that growing them myself is the best way to really understand the conditions they like and how easy they are to maintain, which helps me provide the right plants for my clients.'

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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert