The Chelsea Flower show starts today. Those who have followed the blog a while you will know that I am as passionate about the exterior as I am about the interior. Every visitor who goes to Chelsea wants to take away a bit of Chelsea magic and recreate some element in their own gardens. Taking 3 of my favourites from this year I will show you how to do just that.
Before that, for those unfamiliar, I feel that you need a little bit of background information to realise what we are dealing with here! The Chelsea Flower Show is no ordinary garden show – attended by visitors from all over the world for 5 days every May, many regard it as the best there is.
The atmosphere there is quite extraordinary and you feel as if you are walking in a paradise on earth! There is a gravitas in the air, this could be because its origins are steeped in history; in 1307 the current site belonged to the Knights Templar and was used to grow their roses referred to by Shakespeare himself in Henry VI Part.
The show as we know it today started out as The Great Spring Show, in the 1800s in west London. Due to transportation problems and low visitor numbers the show moved into central London, and found a permanent home in the Grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in 1912 – just a 5 minute walk from Sloane Square and overlooking the Thames. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been organising the show since 1905. A bit of Royal patronage never goes amiss and since 1954 Queen Elizabeth II (or I if you are Scottish!) has attended all but 5 shows. At the beginning of her reign the show symbolised an optimism after the great wars and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Today the show comprises of various show gardens designed and built by the most prominent, established and new up-coming garden architects. There are tented pavilions housing the most spectacular specimens of flowers and plants. Cultivators spend the whole year nurturing the plants to be in perfect condition for judging at Chelsea. You can buy seeds and get advice from the very best. There are also sellers of all the quality garden accessories money can buy…..
To keep the standard so high, the RHS give awards to the very best and these are highly coveted. Many a famous career has been built on a Chelsea Gold Medal! There is a stiff judging process before the show officially opens. The Best in Show is announced a few days in. Gardens are judged on; how the brief was executed, the overall design with choice of plants and arrangement amongst other things.
Again this year the trend is towards the natural garden, with a keen eye on preservation of water and natural habitats.
Show Garden Gold Winner – The Royal Bank of Canada Garden designed by Charlotte Harris and built by Landscape Associates
Burnt larch path and copper lined canopy with angular paving formed from slices of glacial granite boulders. This is to emulate the primitive wooden shelters and ice that formed the backdrop for early hunters and travellers. The damp woodland reflects the fact that 25% of the world’s unfrozen water is found in Canada.
How simple and timeless is this garden, a look that can be recreated in a smallish town garden too!
For gardening buffs here is a list of plants used:
How to recreate this look
- Use random sized pavers in a natural pattern and run decking paths into them at an angle.
- Don’t lay out items symmetrically, use asymmetric paths and planting.
- By treating the timber with a fired method it is more hardwearing and impervious to pests or fire. Alternatively you could use a blackened wood stain.
- Small ponds in natural formations with rocks breaking the surface.
- Step the height of your planting up the further you go from the paths or patio area.
- Simple gravel paths.
Artisan Garden Gold Winner – Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara Built by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratoray Co Ltd Sponsored by G-Lion
This garden is a tribute to the Kyoto residence of Japanese Emperors. A garden that could never be attacked, therefore peaceful and without moat or walls.
The modern copper structure stands on stilts in the shallow pond.
This perfectly curated Japanese water garden where rock pools with moss encrusted rocks are filled from a soft waterfall and surrounded by acers, bonsai conifers, sedum and iris.
Modern glass steps allow you to see the rock pool below and create a bridge from old to new. A mini garden is planted in a Japanese lantern base.
The amazing colour combination comes from the bright acer leaves, against the weathered copper.
How to recreate this look
- Use a variety of acers, vibrant lime greens and dark oranges.
- Keep the shapes trimmed so that they form umbrellas.
- Conifer trees can be trained into bonsai shapes.
- Mini gardens can be created in containers or as borders.
- Having a shallow water garden and placing an open garden structure over it.
- Stepping stones or a glass and metal step if budget allows.
- This garden works best in a shady spot and ideally build a stone garden wall with moss in the gaps if you can’t stretch to a waterfall.
- Use moss and sedum to cover rocks.
- A few Japanese lanterns would also not go amiss!
Feel Good Garden – The Jo Whiley Scent Garden designed by Tamara Bridge & Kate Savill built by Bespoke Outdoor Spaces
Lastly, gardens are not just about looks, smell is just as important. Jo Wiley (BBC Radio Presenter) and Jo Malone (scent lady extraordinare) have joined forces. Emotions evoked by scent, sent in from the public are cast into the concrete seating/wall structure.
Astrantias beneath this amazing field maple is just as it would be in a woodland. Nature reconstructed.
The concrete structure and box balls are a perfect form to root the multi level planting. Aliums contrast well with the father ferns.
This round organic water feature is underplanted with Alchemilla mollis and Thymus serpyllum.
How to recreate this look
- Use a restrained colour palette to allow you to have much variety of shapes and heights.
- Use box or taxus balls to give structure to the planting around and the built elements.
- Curved concrete elements create an enclosed cocoon feeling and provide raised gardens with seating. If budget is a restraint use wood fencing cut into curves and wash it with a grey stain.
- Rounded raised pools like giant bird baths reflect the light and bring a coolness to the warm air be sure to plant around to softened into the landscape.
- Don’t forget to choose plants with amazing scents along pathways and near seating.
Click here for a list of scented climbers
Click here for a list of scented flowers
Hope you have enjoyed this little trip to Chelsea!
Thanks for reading,