Landscape designer Tania Suonio’s “Connected” garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show is deeply personal in many ways. It was largely inspired by her mother, who died earlier this year but instilled in her daughter a deep reverence for nature. “She believed that even the rocks or trees had a spirit. Because of her, my connection to nature is very strong and I wanted to honor her with the garden.” We joined the designer for a peek inside.
Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Her magical woodland pod, a rustic but elegant structure in which visitors can sit and read, work, chat or just gaze up at the incredible glass roof, planted around the perimeter with woodland plants and ferns, is one of the Sanctuary gardens at this year’s show. “When it rains it’s pretty incredible,” says Tania who is also a researcher in vegetative roofs and urban greening at the University of Helsinki. And gazing up through the beautiful glass roof we can imagine the transporting effect.
The Finnish designer has been advised not to use the word “fairytale” to describe her biodiverse and sustainable design, but it’s exactly how this miniature garden feels; she wanted to evoke the sense of wonder you got as a child when entering the forest for the first time.
The pod’s incredible cork exterior is planted up with moss, ferns, and woodland plants. Surrounding it are more beautiful flowers for shade—foxgloves, Solomon’s Seal, Lily of the Valley, primroses, and cow parsley.
The wooden pod is styled as an enormous Jurassic oak trunk—but actually constructed with a wooden frame that has been clad inside with narrow vertical panels of oak that took 500 man hours to create and add to the very Nordic feeling inside. Set into the panels is a small aquarium in the shape of an ancient oak.
After the show the garden, which is sponsored by Exante, will be relocated to a cancer ward at University College Hospital in London so it has to be an entirely functional space for patients, visitors, nurses or doctors. Wheelchair users can access the doors via timber ramps, and seating areas allow visitors to sit and talk, meditate, or plug in their laptops to work. It’s a perfect spot for all of that, but we’d be content to just gaze at the plants or up through that stunning roof to the sky and clouds beyond it.
For more of our coverage of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, see: