Gardens Illustrated
Chelsea designer Sarah Eberle
© Oliver Dixon
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My Chelsea experience: Sarah Eberle

Published: May 19, 2022 at 10:24 am

Join us as we go behind the scenes of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show to speak to long-term Chelsea designer Sarah Eberle, who shares her insights into what makes the world's greatest flower show a success. Photograph by Oliver Dixon

Everyone’s experience of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is slightly different. For most of us it’s a great day out – the opportunity to find inspiration in the show gardens, discover new plants from the country’s leading nurseries and partake in some serious retail therapy. But what does it mean for those who are involved in the show?

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Sarah Eberle has been involved with Chelsea for more years than she cares to remember. Initially, her role was as design director at Hillier and, since 2006, as the creator of some exceptional gardens, including the so-called Life on Mars garden in 2007, an extraordinary ‘chill-out space’ for astronauts, which was named Best in Show.

RHS / Luke MacGregor

“Every year is a thrill,” she says. “The spirit of this show is amazing – challenging, exciting and visually stimulating – and that has always been the same throughout the decades I have been involved with Chelsea. Fashions and themes tend to change and evolve but there is always the most tremendous camaraderie. I think it surprises some newcomers, who worry that everyone will be in competition, but we don’t actually get judged against each other. We are assessed according to a set of rules, although they do get tougher and tougher.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden
The Medite Smartply Building the Future garden. © Sarah Eberle

“Each year we are given a massive judging handbook that lists all the requirements and, unlike some other designers, I do always check carefully through it. Frankly it is hard enough to get points in the first place, it seems stupid to throw them away unnecessarily.” Which may, in part, explain why Sarah is Chelsea’s most-decorated designer.

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“I do also tend to be a bit adventurous, which can work in my favour, although there is also a chance that it might go horribly wrong.” Her garden this year is no exception. The Medite Smartply Building the Future garden (above) centres on a 6m-high, cave-like structure made out of an innovative MDF construction material. “It has a 50-year guarantee, so I’ve got a tree growing out of it and a waterfall cascading over the roof. It will either be a disaster, or it will be absolutely amazing,” says Sarah. Judging by her track record, it will no doubt be amazing.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place 24-28 May 2022

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