Diespeker & Co is delighted to have played a part in the RHS Gold Medal-winning London Square Community Garden, which was inspired by a roof garden built by volunteers on a former car park in Battersea!
The garden was sponsored by award-winning residential developer London Square, designed by James Smith of James Smith Landscape and Garden Design and constructed by Jake Catling of The Landscaping Consultants in a joyous collaboration.
How it began
The story behind the garden started across the river in Battersea. Hidden away between high-rise blocks on the top of a former car park on the Doddington & Rollo estate is a half-acre secret garden created by volunteers, built almost entirely with donated plants from Kew Gardens and nearby Battersea Park.
London Square discovered the garden after sponsoring the Open Gardens Weekend across the capital last year, run by the London Gardens Trust. The Doddington garden took part, with local people and visitors enjoying a barbecue, surrounded by summer flowers and produce, with edible crops, butterfly friendly plants, fig, cherry and apple trees, plus produce grown and shared by local residents. The garden provides a haven for everyone. Below the roof garden is a space occupied by a food bank and by STORM, a charity which provides support for those affected by domestic violence, and services including a lunch club for the elderly, who often eat in the garden in good weather. Queen Camilla visited STORM recently and praised the charity for its work in the local community.
Inspiration for Chelsea
London Square was so inspired by the work of the volunteers there, they decided to sponsor a community garden at Chelsea to show how more communal green spaces should be created in London and other cities to connect people with nature in all kinds of settings.
Garden designer James, who was joined by volunteers from Doddington to help with the build, said: “Bringing together a community is the living thread weaving through every aspect of this garden.”
He created two distinct areas in the design. The first, a welcoming place to meet up with an outdoor kitchen and huge table under a pergola. Stylish upcycled chairs were designed by TV presenter and furniture restorer Jay Blades at his workshop, Jay & Co. James wanted the chairs to give a sense of inclusivity. “They suggest ‘everyone’s welcome’ – and people really smile when they see them.”
Stepping stones led to the second area, a peaceful setting with a large swing seat and garden bookcase set in a tranquil planted area, with a shady spot under the canopy of a tree. Planting was a mix of lush green textures with blue, purple, white, and pink flowers, aromatic and scented plants, herbs and shrubs, with trees providing dappled shade. The produce section of the garden featured a mixture of vegetables and herbs.
Bringing terrazzo into the mix
Initially the design included a small table to be sited next to the swing seat. But this changed during the design process, as James explained: “We were discussing community and thinking about films set in New York, in Central Park – which brought to mind those iconic chess tables where people sit together for hours on end.” This imagery inspired the concept of a much bigger table with chess boards integrated into a terrazzo surface. Why terrazzo? “We already liked the idea of terrazzo, with different materials ‘coming together’ symbolizing people coming together.”
It was Jake who suggested approaching Diespeker to make this unusual table. He was aware of our work through our relationship with another garden designer, Tom Massey.
Sponsors London Square picked a terrazzo they liked, the funky TE081. However, as this is a resin based terrazzo unsuitable for permanent outdoor use, James and Jake instead opted to commission a bespoke cement terrazzo that would provide a similar but ultimately unique look for the table and kitchen worktop.
Diespeker’s bespoke maestro Andy Brady oversaw the production process, with both James and Jake coming to the factory when the terrazzo was about to be cast to place some of the chunks into the mould. As well as marble chunks and chippings, the terrazzo includes a little London rubble, a nod to the new sustainable material Rubblazzo that’s been developed by Diespeker and Tom Massey. And Diespeker’s MD John Krause got involved, bringing along some semi-precious stones to add into the mix. The chess boards were incorporated into the table using terrazzo TE005 for the light squares and TE025 for the dark squares, and the legs of the table were fashioned from galvanized steel given a dull, aged finish by Surrey Ironcraft who also supplied the material for the pergola and water trough.
Made from the same bespoke terrazzo as the table, the impressive kitchen worktop incorporated a pizza oven. “Pizza is a good food that’s all about sharing,” Jake said. And the herbs growing round the terrace were just perfect to add as a topping!
On press day, the King and Queen paid a visit to the show, with the London Square Community Garden one of just three gardens chosen to be viewed by the royal couple.
The table was an instant success. Rachel de Thame said on the BBC RHS Chelsea Flower Show programme: “What I’m so impressed by straight away is the large garden table, right in the middle. They’re not shying away from the fact that the table is key; a beautiful surface, made of a terrazzo. I especially love these, the chess boards that are set into the tabletop, so that it’s not only a space to eat, but a place to play, chat and read.”
The icing on the cake was when James received a coveted Gold Medal from TV presenter Nikki Chapman.
Jo McDonagh, Sales and Marketing Director of sponsors London Square, which builds new neighbourhoods across Greater London, said: “We were absolutely thrilled that our garden won gold – thanks to our great team of James and Jake and all the people who worked with us on the project. The Diespeker table was admired by the crowds throughout the week and provided a great talking point. We wanted to show visitors to Chelsea the power of a communal green space to connect people and provide an escape to enjoy nature in the middle of the capital – and how similar spaces could be created throughout London through clever design, in all kinds of settings. The key elements of the garden are now being moved to the Doddington roof garden where the story started.”
Everyone at Diespeker was elated with the success of both the kitchen worktop and, especially, the chess board table. James said: “It’s gone down a storm, lots of people were asking about it.” He added that he’d found the experience of working with Diespeker really interesting, discovering the long history of the company. “And it’s a bit of an Aladdin’s cave!”
Jake was also impressed: “Working with Diespeker was so positive, everyone was so accommodating and helpful coming up with ideas.”
He says the terrazzo provides a massive message that feeds into the garden. “It’s beautiful and it’s resilient. For me it speaks of sharing knowledge, people spending time together – Chelsea Pensioners and young children playing chess together.”
A huge congratulations to everyone involved in this wonderfully positive project.
This is Diespeker’s second time contributing to a Chelsea show garden. Back in 2017 we created unusual light transmitting terrazzo for Kate Gould’s ‘City Living’ garden. And next up, it’s a first with an appearance for Diespeker terrazzo and our new material Rubblazzo at the Hampton Court Flower in Tom Massey’s ‘Resilient’ garden.
Watch the London Square Community Garden at Chelsea on BBC iPlayer (approx. 5 mins in).
Swing set – @gazeburvill – https://www.gazeburvill.com
Chairs – @jaybladesmbe – https://www.jayand.co
Landscaping – @tlc.uk – https://www.thelandscapingconsultants.co.uk/contact-us/
Book shelf – @clarke_clarke_interiors – https://clarke-clarke.sandersondesigngroup.com
Pizza oven – @morsoemements – https://morsoe.com/en/
Images by Harrison Ross