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Evening Standard
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Perks of being a wallflower: Bridgerton garden brings the blooming of Penelope Featherington to life

Dear gentle reader, if you’ve already binged part one of Bridgerton season 3 (guilty) then luckily there’s more of Penelope Featherington’s story to tide you over.

Netflix is bringing a Bridgerton-themed garden to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. Created by garden designer Holly Johnston, ‘The Bridgerton Garden’ will communicate the sensory journey of Penelope (played by Nicola Coughlan) blooming from ballroom wallflower to romantic heroine.

A garden is a fitting tie-in for the big budget glossy period drama, where characters spend a lot of time having sigh-heavy and erotically charged moments in manicured formal landscapes. Johnston, already a fan, immediately had some ideas how to distil the series into a living garden.

The Bridgerton Garden will follow the arc of Penelope Featherington (Holly Johnston Design)

“I love the show,” says Johnston. “It’s very indulgent. It shows a very colourful, over-the-top world that’s not historically accurate, but rejects that in the most fabulous way.”

Bridgerton plays fast and loose with period details, blowing up the Regency fashions to epic glittery proportions and upending the era’s colonial realities with diverse casting. This freed Johnston from the constraints of producing a carbon copy of the set with her Chelsea interpretation.

“I wanted to create something that had a sense of heritage design. My biggest goal will be for it to sense of place and not feel like it’s just been built,” she says. “But I also didn’t want to create something that was an exact replica of the show. It wasn’t going to be a perfect rose garden or a meticulously pruned topiary garden.”

Visitors will enter through a moon gate, a circular archway from traditional Chinese gardens symbolising new beginnings that was imported to Britain into the 19th century.

The moon gate has been crafted from Derbyshire fosssil limestone by Richard and Lewyn Clegg, drywall specialists from Yorkshire

Acting as a portal to Penelope’s world, beyond the gate is a sunken area that is shaded on one side and sunlit on the other.

The symbolism is important to Johnston, who wanted to communicate the dual nature of Penelope, whose awkward exterior belies her double nature as the shadowy gossip-monger Lady Whistledown.

“It’s about this one woman’s journey and the duality of her character, how she’s hiding part of her identity,” explains Johnston. “I had thoughts of Penelope’s Lady Whistledown sharpening her quill and writing secrets, while on the other side she comes into full bloom.”

A blooming garden is also a fitting expression of Penelope’s season three character arc, which sees her throw off her frumpy wardrobe of sickening yellow florals for a glamorous new wardrobe of leafy greens and contoured makeup. Nothing beats an on-screen makeover glow-up for pure serotonin, and Bridgerton season 3 more than delivers.

“She goes through an evolution, and that was very much a part of my planting design,” explains Johnston. “I wanted to be unashamedly romantic and feminine in this garden.”

A yellow wallflower (Erysimum Bredon) planted at the start of the garden represents where Penelope’s character at the start of the series, while White pet roses have been planted around the moon gate for romance.

Inside the garden, dwarf elms (Ulmus minor 'Suberosa') provide intrique with their unusual grooved bark, entwined by ivy growing up its trunk and over the wall.

In the sunken area, leafy ferns (a nod to Johnston’s childhood growing up in New Zealand) and a reclaimed 20th century Regency replica water fountain sourced from a reclamation yard will create a green and tranquil respite space.

“I wanted it to be this moment where you’re stepping into her world,” says Johnston “Hopefully it can be applicable to people that haven’t seen the show, because it shows the messiness and the beauty of the human experience.”

Netflix has hinted that there might be some star appearances for the garden’s society debut at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Monday. With King Charles and Queen Camilla due to make an appearance, we await to see if they will name a new gardening diamond of the season.

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