RHS Chelsea win for artisan garden inspired by Branscombe Forge in Devon

RHS Chelsea win for artisan garden inspired by Branscombe Forge in Devon A garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, created by the Blue Diamond Group and inspired by the National Trust’s Branscombe Forge near Axminster in Devon, has won two awards. The garden won Best Artisan Garden and also a Silver Award and it's the first time that the Blue Diamond Group has exhibited at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The Blue Diamond Forge Garden was built to celebrate the artisan craft of blacksmithing, inspired by the National Trust's Branscombe F

orge, which dates back to the fifteenth century. The garden features a thatched roof forge and bespoke, hand-crafted pieces of metal work created by the resident blacksmith at Branscombe Forge, Simon Hall, who kindly agreed to help the team at Blue Diamond with their show garden journey and was on-site at the Forge Garden during the show demonstrating his craft live to visitors.

With more than fifty years of blacksmithing running in the family, Simon is an award-winning third generation blacksmith who first took up the craft at the age of nine – learning the trade through his grandad, uncle and father. The garden demonstrates the modern work of a blacksmith and how metal work has evolved over time from fish-hooks to sculptures and garden art. As a blacksmith, Simon has taken inspiration from the plants and garden around him. He was commissioned to create artwork to be displayed in the garden at Chelsea, including a detailed ironwork of the bright orange red hot poker flower, for which he made 220 individual pieces of ironwork.

In the garden, trees gave structure to the informal planting scheme but blended wild plants and more ornamental varieties. The colours in the leaves and flowers mirrored the colours associated with a working forge, the flames, embers and soot. There was a stream that ran from the front to the side of the garden, water being an important part of a working forge and so allowing the blacksmith to fill the quench bowl inside the forge from the trough outside. Simon Hall, blacksmith at Branscombe Forge said: "It's been great to be involved in the project at Chelsea Flower Show and blend the craft of blacksmithing with nature to create pieces that are part of the Blue Diamond Artisan Garden. Not only was it a good opportunity for to showcase the 50 years of family skills which have been handed down to me, but it was also a great way to show that traditional blacksmithing is still going strong."

Alan Roper, managing director of the Blue Diamond Group, the second largest garden centre group in the UK with 37 centres throughout the UK and Channel Islands, said: "We have exhibited in many RHS shows over the years under our Fryer's Roses brand, however we are proud and to have created our first Blue Diamond garden at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year. As a company The Blue Diamond Group recognises and cherishes its heritage, whilst evolving to be relevant to today's customer. Creativity is very much at the heart of our retail ethos in our centres throughout the UK and Channel Islands. As a team, we wanted to create a garden that represents the ethos of The Blue Diamond Group which we have done by taking inspiration for the garden from the artisan craft of Blacksmithing and the National Trust's historic Branscombe Forge where I have personally visited many times over the past 40 years!" He continued: "Achieving a Silver Award and Best Artisan Garden is a tremendous achievement for the Blue Diamond Group, not least as it is

the first time that the group have exhibited at RHS Chelsea. RHS Chelsea has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to showcase the talents within the Blue Diamond Group. Our garden was originally thought up and designed by employees within the group who have then worked closely and had excellent support from Conquest Creative Spaces and Project Consultant, Cherry Carmen, to bring the Blue Diamond Forge Garden to life. I am delighted with how the garden looks and we've had many complimentary comments from visitors to the show about the garden with many saying that they cannot believe that forge was built in only two weeks, its authenticity making it appear to have always been in the grounds of Chelsea."

Sarah Baker, visitor operations and experience manager for the National Trust at Branscombe said: "We were very excited that Branscombe Forge was the inspiration for this garden. At Branscombe we are pleased to support a range of artisans, so it's great to see Simon's work get celebrated in this way. Historically the smithy would have been a regular sight in any small settlement providing essential metal work from hinges to horseshoes. It's great that this craft has been celebrated at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year. A big congratulations to Simon and the team at Blue Diamond."

For more information about Branscombe Forge please visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/branscombe

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