From the 18th Floor to Cloud Nine: A high-rise gardener gets a spot at the Chelsea Flower Show | Chelsea Flower Show


On leave and fed up with the first Covid lockdown, Jason Williams decided to take up gardening. His entry plant was a French marigold, bought from B&Q, and he spent the next few months making YouTube videos learning what grows on an 18th floor balcony in central Manchester.

Unlike the rest of us who picked up a trowel for the first time during the pandemic, Williams’ ‘cloud garden’ was such a hit that he was asked to recreate it for Chelsea’s flower show from This year.

The 35-year-old bar manager will make his Chelsea debut in the show’s ‘small space gardening’ section, which was introduced last year in response to the boom in balcony and container horticulture.

Describing her gardening style as “perfectly flawed”, Williams has created an online following dedicated to her candid videos.

Playing the role of Cloud Gardener (Cloudy to his fans), he is sometimes dressed in a kimono paired with what appears to be a silk shower cap, sometimes crying in joy or despair. He gives his failures as much airtime as his successes, paying tender homage to the plants he inadvertently killed (although he prefers the term “non-living”).

Sunflowers were a flop (“the leaves are too big and they take a lot of wind blows, so I killed them”), but passion fruit and grapes are good guns. One day, he dreams of harvesting enough to make wine.

He learned a lot about gardening at height, where Lancashire lowland winds can rip the head off a delicate rose but temperatures can sometimes be 10°C warmer than at ground level. And who knew that bumblebees could reach the 18th floor?

Williams has documented her gardening on social media and has spoken openly about her mental health. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

Williams prides herself on being honest, talking about her anxiety and depression, and when things go wrong. “On social media there is this urge to make everything perfect and so everything has to be filtered. But throughout my content there is absolutely no filtering, no color adjustments,” he said. said “I will voluntarily show everyone my dead plants because I think it’s really important for people to understand that gardening is a challenge.”

When he applied for Chelsea, he stressed that he wanted his show garden to be accessible “to show what can realistically be done”. His target audience is “people who would never even think of Chelsea”.

All of the plants in his Chelsea garden have been tried and tested on his Manchester balcony and can be purchased from a standard garden centre. “What I didn’t want to do was create a show garden masterpiece that people can’t replicate, or if they did, they’d fail and be like, ‘Ah, I don’t. don’t have a green thumb “and stop”, he mentioned.

He wants to challenge the idea that black people don’t garden. “We do. You just don’t tend to see him on TV. There was Danny Clarke, the black gardener, he said, and Tayshan Hayden-Smith, a footballer who now appears on Your Garden Made Perfect.”But there’s not a lot of representation for young black men in particular,” Williams said.

“I hope there will be young gardeners and budding young designers who will see me and maybe it will give them the impression that they can also appear at Chelsea. I mean, I have no experience in gardening or landscaping, so if I can do it, so can they.


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