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RHS Chelsea Flower Show sees garden with no flowers win prize M&G Garden

Since first bursting into bloom in 1912, the Chelsea Flower Show has been, well, about flowers.

But yesterday – possibly for the first time – an almost entirely green garden won the coveted Best in Show award.

With visitors commenting that the design ranged from 'disappointing' to 'brave', the winner is the talk of the gardening world.

The M&G Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon, was crowned as the Best in Show by the Royal Horticulture Society's judges yesterday. The garden is sponsored by M&G Investments which also backs the show.

Set against huge, blackened oak sculptures that look like rocks and weigh 15 tons, the garden symbolises the 'regenerative theme of new life'. 

The Chelsea Flower Show winner with no flowers: The M&G Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon, was crowned as the Best in Show by the Royal Horticulture Society's judges yesterday. The garden is sponsored by M&G Investments

Set against huge, blackened oak sculptures that look like rocks and weigh 15 tons, the M&G Garden symbolises the 'regenerative theme of new life' 

Celebrating his win with a flute of champagne, Mr Sturgeon said he is unconcerned by criticism of his unusual design; in fact he welcomes it.

He said inspiration came from seeing black rocks in Australia on a beach in Merimbula in New South Wales. 

'It gave me the idea, of a garden where new plants are colonising after a lava flow. I wanted it to feel like it's being taken over by plants.' 

Mr Sturgeon also won the Best in Show award in 2010 and 2016, and bagged seven RHS gold medals.

But his success is tinged with sadness as his partner Sarah Didinal, the mother of his three sons, died aged 37 in 2009, a year before his first win. 

'Sarah used to tease me, saying, 'Why haven't you won Best in Show? Why haven't you made any money?' 

Because I never made any money until after she died. Which is sad, as she was there all that early time. So when I hear Best in Show, I think of Sarah,' he told the Telegraph.

The inspiration for the M&G Garden came from seeing black rocks in Australia on a beach in Merimbula in New South Wales

Sturgeon prefers to use 'primitive' plants such as moss and ferns and grasses as they are first to colonise new areas

He prefers to use 'primitive' plants such as moss and ferns and grasses as they are first to colonise new areas. 'They are primitive plants, and they don't flower. Ferns, for instance, have been around since the dinosaurs.'

The RHS says natural 'green' gardens such as Mr Sturgeon's are on trend for this year. The garden features 'free planting' rather than planting in groups of three or four.

The striking black ridges were sculpted from blackened oak by Johnny Woodford while a staircase of vast English ironstone-paved platforms was quarried in the Cotswolds.

Mr Sturgeon, of Haywards Heath, said anyone could replicate his garden look by painting their fences black. 'Having green plants against a black background helps them stand out – in any garden big or small,' he said.

Of the criticism of his design, he added: 'If people love it or hate it, that means a lot to me, I don't want people to be indifferent, I want people to think about it.' 

Among the remarks he has heard are that the black ridges 'look like groynes on a beach' or volcanic rock formations.

Hayley Farnfield, 46, of Farnham, said of the M&G Garden: 'It's very clever to have no flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show, although he does have some flowers, it's just they are very subtle.'

Even Her Majesty the Queen visited, telling him 'it's amazing how a lot of these show gardens attract butterflies and bees. 

She commented that it's good people are aware of how important it is to get wildlife into gardens.' RHS members gave mixed reviews to the garden which, to be fair, does have the odd bloom. 

'Jane Watson, 61, a hospital clerk, said: 'I am disappinted it's too green. I like colours. Coming from Derbyshire we see a lot of this.'

Others were more enthusiastic. Louise Cummins, 58, a garden designer from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey said: 'It's very brave to be that green,' adding that she suspected the public preferred purples, blues and whites.

Hayley Farnfield, 46, of Farnham, said: 'It's very clever to have no flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show, although he does have some flowers, it's just they are very subtle.'

An even more radical garden was unveiled by Ikea. It features hydroponic technology without sunlight or soil. Plants grow under LED lights with soil replaced by water.

Sturgeon is pictured with his gong. He won Best Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with his M&G Garden 

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