I first got to know Makiko Sato when she pleaded with me to borrow some turf on the eve of judging day at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010. She was the construction manager in charge of more than two dozen workers at Kazu Ishihara’s Japanese garden, which was next door to mine. It was a pleasure to help her out, not least because she had worked her socks off to create a beautiful garden and she deserved to succeed. In the event the miserly judges only gave her a silver. The following year Makiko returned to Chelsea with Ishihara and I think they were rather disappointed to be given a silver again, when the prediction was gold.
This year Makiko has returned as a gardener designer in her own right and has proved that she’s very much the match for her old boss by winning a silver-gilt at her very first attempt. Her garden is the ‘Japanese Reconstruction’ garden in the ‘Summer Gardens’ category at Hampton Court. Makiko got the inspiration for her design after seeing a single red pine tree amidst the devastation following the tsunami disaster in Japan, the sole survivor out of a grove of thousands of pines. The pine tree became a symbol of hope for recovery and she has used the imagery by placing a single pine in the centre of her ‘Japanese Reconstruction’ garden. The imagery is exceptionally powerful. I’ve got a feeling that she’ll be at Chelsea next year as a designer; it will be fascinating to see her come head to head with Ishihara.