Gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show can often leave you in a dissatisfied, defeated heap when faced with your own garden but take a step back and there are lessons, tips and planting combinations that anyone can adopt whether you have a city balcony, a tiny courtyard or the luxury of a large outdoor space. Here are some of our favourite things from this year’s show.
The Power of a Dark Wall
We loved Charlotte Harris’ pitch perfect Royal Bank of Canada garden that drew on the rugged landscapes of Canada’s Boreal forests. Her light touch with the planting scheme showed how less can often be more; here Deschampsia cespitosa – the shimmering grass in this picture – mingles with the yellow zing of Zizea aurea – a combination that sings against a charcoal grey backdrop.
Plant a River
Just as impactful was another gold-medal winning show garden on Main Avenue, Breaking Ground by Gavin McWilliams and Andrew Wilson, where a river of amazing vivid purple Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ snaked through the planting of Stipa gigantea, valerian, angelica and catmint. It illustrates just how powerful a restricted palette, and one eye-popping star of the show, can be.
Cram It All In
At Chelsea this year there was a new grouping of ‘feel good’ gardens, each based around one of the five senses and named after a Radio 2 DJ. On the Anneka Rice Colour Cutting garden, designed by Sarah Raven and Tricia Guild, a sea of colour was divided into simple square beds with narrow brick paths in between. Anyone can recreate this fabulous tapestry in microcosm – each bed has a carefully restricted combination of colours, sometimes clashing but always complementary.
The Beauty of Edibles
On the Chris Evans Taste Garden, immaculate lines of cabbages and kale illustrate how a perfectly laid out veg patch can be just as beautiful as any border.
There were pines everywhere at Chelsea this year and they made us totally reconsider these previously unfashionable evergreens. On Matt Keightley’s Texture Garden, pines were clipped into neat spheres – a textural and fragrant alternative to the normal box or yew.
Plant Hazy Grasses and Colourful Spikes
Matt Keightley also put together some of the most exquisite planting combinations in the entire showground. Here the rich burnished red spikes of Verbascum ‘Firedance’ mingle with bronze fennel, Stipa tenuissima and cirsiums.
Just as harmonious was the coppery deliciousness created by Catherine MacDonald on the Seedlip garden. How gorgeous is this combination of ferns, geums and the gorgeous Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ set against the rusty metal backdrop?
One Note Pots
On the Poetry Lover’s Garden, Fiona Cadwallader filled terracotta pots with dark moody spikes of Frittilaria persica. Plant a handful of these bulbs in a tall pot this autumn and you can recreate this display for next spring.
Add a Mirror
Each year the exhibitors at Chelsea, selling everything from greenhouses and sculpture to pots and cult tools, seem to up their game. A case in point this corner of David Harber’s stand where the white planting scheme with delicious white peonies and lush green foliage surrounded mirrored spheres.
Plant a Rose
Because quite frankly why wouldn’t you? We always make a beeline for the sublime David Austin stand in the floral pavilion and there are always a few new roses (this year it was a lovely apricot number named after Judi Dench). It’s almost impossible to single out a favourite rose because they are all exquisite but the Ancient Mariner, introduced a couple of years ago by Austin, caught our eye. A repeat flowering shrub rose with a heavenly musky scent.