Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge are garden designers who have worked together since they met in 2015 at the Tatton RHS Young Designer of the Year competition. Their collaborative projects include an installation for RHS Spring Show 2015, The Jo Whiley Scent Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 and The Warner Edwards Garden at RHS Chelsea 2018. The duo also recently took part in Channel 5’s Great Gardening Challenge. Here they are on their first Chelseas and how the flower show has helped their careers.
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Had you worked separately at RHS Chelsea Flower Show before you worked together on a garden?
Kate Savill: I had worked for Adam Frost in his office for a few years, after I’d done an apprenticeship with his Home Base Garden Academy which was my foot into the Chelsea door, I suppose.
Tamara Bridge: My first time was actually helping a friend plant up her trade stand in 2013. And it really opened my eyes to the background and what goes on in building these gardens. You suddenly realise it’s not just garden designers, it’s not just the landscapers or contractors, there’s traffic staff, the PR, there’s a huge team. I’ve gone back in various guises, basically on a volunteer basis. I bumped into Kate in the loos at Chelsea and both of us covered in mud because it had been raining and Kate was planting Adam’s and I was planting up Hartley Botanics trade stand for Landform. It was just quite a hilarious moment
Where did you get to know each other?
Tamara: I think it was at Tatton that that Kate and I really got to know each other and formed a bond. We also decided that both of us really wanted to go and do our own garden at Chelsea and thought that joining forces would be beneficial, from a business point of view but also just from a sort of emotional support. We both loved each other’s design work, and it can be quite isolating working as a designer, particularly for me, I’m in Norfolk, and I kind of quite often feel like I’m in the office or my home a lot of the time.
What makes you work well together?
Kate: We’ve got the same drive I think. We like to get our hands dirty and just do everything, from building a garden to the designing to the planting. It was nice to see that kind of side in someone else.
Tamara: I have always been hugely competitive so it was refreshing for me that for the first time I had met somebody that I thought: “Oh my gosh, I love what they do and they’re so good at it.” At Tatton I remember we both got up at about three in the morning during the build went down to the nursery. It felt like I had found an ally and that we were on the same team, even though we were supposed to be competing against each other.
Was your first garden at Chelsea together the Jo Whiley Scent Garden in 2017?
Kate: Yes we had applied the year before, I think straight after Tatton, and were unsuccessful. We just thought we should go for it. It was a bit of a leap but both of us knew that we wanted to get there at some stage. We got asked to do that garden by the RHS in March of that year, and I think there were eight weeks before being asked and being on site.
Tamara: Whereas it looked like we might have come from nowhere, we had been in the face of the RHS for years saying: “Hey, we’re really keen we’re really excited” and by being always present and always able to say, ‘yes’, that’s when you do get the reward sometimes.
Eight weeks is a very short time to turn round a garden for Chelsea!
Kate: It has made us more reliable, and I think it gave the RHS the confidence that we could go forward. We have a nice relationship with the RHS and we’ve got to know them throughout the years, so it’s great going back and seeing familiar friends.
That first garden, how did you feel creating it? Stressed?!
Kate: I think we were just so eager.
Tamara: We ate it up really. We went into flow state where we were going for it.
Kate: Having that short a deadline also removes the space for any second guessing, or doubts that we had on any of our designs. Tamara came up with the seed of an idea, pinged it over to me and I just said: ‘Yes, that’s it’. We thought very clearly, it was almost like we don’t have any other distractions.
Tamara: It’s faired us well in every other project that we’ve then done. Being able to work to a short deadline and almost creating those short deadlines for ourselves because we really reap the benefits of having that focused drive.
Kate: It’s like a whirlwind of thought process, and we’re bouncing ideas off each other until it feels right. The design doesn’t become a Kate or Tamra garden, so it’s different to what we do in our own practises day to day.
How did that first one make an impact to what you’ve gone on to do subsequently?
Tamara: I think it has had different effects on both of us even though we work together. What surprised me the most is meeting the people and creating networks. It’s undoubtedly enhanced the work that I do in my own practise. I feel like it’s really helped me evolve a creative process of my own. And it never gets old or boring. Each year you learn a new plants, you see new combinations, you see new materials. It breathes life into the work I do at home.
Kate: It definitely does feed into what you can do outside of Chelsea, and just meeting the talented people, some of the stuff that we’ve learned just this year working on the Amaffi Garden it’s been amazing and eye opening.