Chris Beardshaw very bravely decided to risk bringing back rhodos to Chelsea despite their being much out of fashion in recent years. I must confess to being prejudiced against them – too large and lumpy and dark green when not in flower, too garish when in flower – except in their native habitats. However, the garden he created shows how much nicer they are when used amongst other plants and with a bit of colour restraint. Based on Furzey Gardens in the New Forest, it has a real period feel and could easily have appeared in the pages of Country Life in the early part of the 20th century.
Chelsea Flower Show 2012
I’ve recently been following a blog written by a couple of friends who have been sending back wonderful photographs from south-east Asia where these intensely vibrant colours are everywhere and entirely appropriate to their setting. It reminded me once more that with our soft light, a softer palette works so much better. I may want a splash of vivid colour but it needs cooler companions.
Nigel Dunnett’s Blue Water Garden is an interesting working of an old idea – the harvesting and use of water to create a green oasis in the driest of places. The building is based on the trulli of the Puglia region of southern Italy, the water rills echo the paradise gardens of ancient Persia and the planting was inspired by the dry meadows of south eastern Europe. It felt very different to many of the other gardens – fresher, crisper and with more vibrant colour contrasts. With the warm weather I’m sure the orange martagon lilies will be looking better and better as the week progresses. The roof of the trulli has been made without any mortar – a real work of art.
The Taiwan orchid growers held nothing back with their orchid display in the Great Pavilion. What caught my eye was what looked like either a broom or a mimosa in full bloom. Close examination revealed that it was a bare tree that had been entirely covered with sprays of yellow flowered orchids. It was astonishing.
Sarah Price has an extraordinary skill for conjuring up naturalistic plantings that look like they have always been there. The garden gives the impression of being the culmination of many long walks in the countryside where she has closely observed plant associations that please her and used them as her inspiration for this garden. The close-up detail of the planting is a delight, right down to the early-spotted marsh orchid.