It fascinates me the way certain plants and colour themes recur in many of the gardens each year at Chelsea without any conscious communicating between the designers. Call it zeitgeist, coincidence or good marketing by the suppliers, whatever it is, I always enjoy spotting the contenders. This year’s stars were undoubtedly the tawny-hued flag iris that appeared in both Andy Sturgeon’s and Tom Hoblyn’s gardens.
Tawny flag iris
Purple alliums were big in the past few years, but although there were echoes of this planting it wasn’t a major theme.
Single white paeonies were eye-catching both in gardens and in the Pavilion.
Unlike many of the plants for Chelsea, these are flowering naturally at the moment – on a visit to Wisley last week there were some beautiful drifts of them beneath trees and in my own garden the ‘Late Windflower’ I bought from Beth Chatto many years ago is at its peak. Horticultural curiosity of the show goes to the checkerboard plant I saw in the Green & Black’s Rainforest Garden. Check this out :
Calathea ‘network’ (not commercially available – yet)
Habitats galore in The Naturally Fashionable Garden
Leeds City Coucil Lock Garden
Biodiversity in its many forms was big at Chelsea. Many of the gardens were planted with wildlife in mind, whether as a predominant theme or as an element of the design. Sometimes accidentally so – as with the parakeets nesting above James Wong’s Malaysian garden. He and his co-designer David Cabero had set up a recording playing the sounds of rainforest birds and the parakeets were joining in enthusiastically.
Tree ferns in the Malaysian Garden
In an attempt to lure them down to flit amongst the tree ferns James and David were tempting them down with mangoes. On Eastern Avenue CJ WildBird Foods were unveiling exciting news about Red Mason Bees. These super-efficient pollinators are about 120 times more efficient than honey bees and free of the diseases that are plaguing bee hives. You can introduce them in to your own garden with a Mason Bee Nest Box (£9.99) available at the show or from their website.
Every Chelsea has its own unique atmosphere, its dominant themes and colour palettes – and particular plants that crop up time and again. After last year’s austerity, it was good to see that the Show was vibrant and optimistic once more, if a touch safe. Not that I miss the vulgarity of blue glass mulches and multicoloured plastic baubles of earlier years, but there was definitely a feeling of restraint to most of the large gardens. This actually resulted in designs that most of us could happily live with – which really is no bad thing.
But there is a little bit of me that enjoys being challenged by a touch of outrageousness.
The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris mounted their first ever display of their collection of rare orchids
I’m not very keen on some of the foliage colours of heucheras and heucherellas but this display did make me smile
This interesting and informative display in the Great Pavilion explored historic gardening techniques.
I’d never heard of hot bed growing described as French Gardening
Medwyn Williams grows vegetables like no others – and has now been joined in the business by his son and grandson
Avon Bulbs make bulbs irresistible
More temptation from Avon Bulbs
The luxuriant and fragrant Alhambra-like display at David Austin Roses
Garden Organic are promoting their One Pot Pledge in the Great Pavilion
Proof that insect hotels can be modernist as well as rustic
The wirework sculpture was so realistic I can imagine that it trotting round the Great Pavilion checking the other displays at dawn
Caramba! Dahlias have evaded the taste police and are back in the Great Pavilion
Hilliers Nurseries explore various colour themes of which this was the prettiest
Hilliers star new introduction – although its name will take some learning
Single white paeonies are much in evidence
Green & Black’s Rainforest garden won gold for its evocation of a forest clearing where Cameroonian women grow crops
Albert Einstein’s quote provides the theme for the Bee Friendly garden
These attractive screens filter the wind and can be repositioned according to the prevailing conditions in this Sustainable Highland Garden
I had to put aside my prejudices about conifer gardens in this instance – partly because I didn’t realise it was a conifer garden
This is one of the prettiest birdbaths I’ve ever seen
Sheer genius! The rhubarb emerges from custard formed from a small yellow sedum. A real delight.