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Sadler's Well Garden - RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Alexa Ryan-Mills / MIMStudios

This month, we're excited to share the story of a collaboration between talented garden designer, Alexa Ryan-Mills and Teoman and Gerli Ayas from MIMStudios.

Their partnership began at a Hive event in Autumn 2021, where their shared love for design consolidated their connection, and led to the creation of a stunning garden at the  RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023, earning a Silver Medal and widespread acclaim. Well done guys!


We are delighted to share their Hive Success story below, where they share insights into their partnership and its impact on their businesses. We were over the moon to see this partnership come into flower (see what we did there!) as Alexa and Teoman are long-term Hivers and both highly talented designers; seeing their very cool Sadler's Wells garden on the telly was joyous. We implore you to read on...


----- ALEXA -----


Logo for Alexa Ryan-Mills, garden designer

I’m Alexa, a garden designer working in London and further afield - I live in Walthamstow and have been here about 10 years. My business has evolved and these days I specialise in planting design working with landscape architects and other garden designers, but I also work locally with private clients, particularly providing garden consultations and planting design.


Project Giving Back 2023  © Britt Willoughby Dyer
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

I met Teoman at a Hive event a few years ago. We chatted over a beer and possibly a slice of pizza. It’s always interesting to meet people working in anything to do with gardens, buildings, and designers and makers of all sorts. So as soon as I knew Teoman was an architect I made sure I didn’t leave the event without saying hi.


In autumn 2021 I had applied for funding for a garden for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023. The funders were Project Giving Back and they help designers and charities join together to create gardens for this very prestigious garden show. It’s a way of providing exposure to the charity as it is so well attended and always gets lots of coverage in the media.


I pitched an idea to create a garden with Sadler’s Wells to promote the opening of Sadler’s Wells East in the Olympic Park. Sadler’s Wells East will open soon and have a hip-hop theatre academy, medium-sized theatre and lots of rehearsal space and support for dancers and choreographers in East London. The category I was applying for was called ‘All About Plants’ so my idea was to make the plants the performers of the space. I also wanted to bring a bit of East London to Chelsea, use locally reclaimed materials and link to the history of this corner of the capital.


I was keen to collaborate with someone to help design the space - as my focus (and area I love most) has always been plants and bumped into Teoman at another Hive event. We decided to meet up for a coffee and work out how we could work together. At this point, I had been long-listed, but there was a long journey before the garden would secure funding, get accepted by the RHS and then finally be built. 


Alexa Ryan-Mills at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023
@Alister Thorpe

We talked initially about the way rivers meet in Stratford and that helped us figure a way of dividing this 8m x 6m space. Teoman and Gerli came up with the frames that wind around the space and echo the famous factory roof lines. And they helped me meet all the rules and restrictions from the RHS (there are quite a few!). For the various rounds of approval, we had to produce lots of drawings so it was brilliant to have them on board. Teoman and I also visited the landscapers building the garden to test how everything came together a few weeks before we got to site.


I am delighted to say the garden won a Silver Medal at the show and we had such good feedback from the public. The garden also featured in print, online, TV and radio.


After the show, we took the garden apart and donated the plants and various elements to a school in Stratford which does lots of work with Sadler’s Wells.


Having a garden at Chelsea is a lot of work - it was great to be able to collaborate with Teoman and Gerli to share some of that.


For me personally, being at Chelsea was great for networking within the industry - there’s nothing like it really. It’s also nice to say I’ve had a garden at Chelsea to clients too - it’s such a well-known event.




----- TEOMAN and GERLI -----


Logo for Mim Studios

Teoman and Gerli at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

MIMStudios is a design-led architectural practice based in London. Since 2019, we have operated from our East London studio, creating buildings, spaces, and objects with the same design rigour, regardless of scale. We began with commercial fit-out projects and over time expanded into residential refurbishment projects, which currently occupy most of our time. However, we actively seek commercial opportunities as well as unique collaborative projects like the Chelsea Flower Show garden, at any scale.


I first met Alexa at recurring Hive events and we got along personally. At MIMStudios, we work on a number of residential refurbishment projects, and Alexa designs gardens, which presented a clear mutual interest for networking. During one of these events, Alexa mentioned the Chelsea Flower Show. I was aware of the show but unfamiliar with the process of showcasing a design. Alexa’s expertise in garden design made her keen to collaborate with us on the hardscape, stand, and furniture that would complement the planting scheme.


My partner Gerli and I met with Alexa at a café in Hackney Wick for our kickoff meeting and began brainstorming immediately. Alexa spearheaded the multi-staged application process. By the time we began collaborating, she had already secured Sadler’s Wells as a charity partner and established East London as both a theme and a location for material resourcing. As longtime East London residents ourselves, we jumped right in. 


Alexa Ryan-Mills trying out the steps for the garden designed for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

We exchanged numerous specific ideas along with many mood images. At MIMStudios, we began sketching design ideas using both 2D and 3D tools to refine our options. We had many intermediate meetings with Alexa to discuss and refine. We respected each other’s areas of expertise, which made the process smooth and enjoyable. During the conceptual design phase, my partner Gerli was also very involved. As the design developed and crystallised, Alexa and I continued with meeting potential contractors and manufacturers for realising different parts of the design.


Our collaboration introduced MIMStudios to a target audience we had never imagined before. The world of the Chelsea Flower Show is truly unique. It also affirmed our identity as architectural designers capable of functioning at various scales and settings. Perhaps the most enduring impact was the network of designers and manufacturers we met and continue to collaborate with on other projects.



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