Claire Austin returns to RHS Chelsea

After a seven-year absence, Claire Austin is returning to the 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show with two exhibit gardens in the Great Pavilion.

Claire will exhibit an Iris Courtyard Garden and a Perennial Courtyard Garden as she returns for the first time since 2016. Celebrating her 40 year career in horticulture and the 40th anniversary of her first visit to the show, the gardens represent two special anniversaries.

With her team from Claire Austin Hardy Plants, Claire will be celebrating the specialisms of her acclaimed plant nursery at White Hopton Farm in the Welsh Marches, with one courtyard gardens shining a light on irises and the other on hardy perennials and peonies.

Iris Courtyard

Here, Claire will exhibit over 50 varieties of bearded irises in a spectacular range of colours from pure white and pale pink to cerise, blue, purple, yellow and orange and deepest black. At the centre of the Courtyard Garden, local farmer-florist Emma Cox of Luna Bloom, will create a magnificent urn arrangement using bearded iris and the more delicate iris sibirica varieties as cut flowers. Popular with flower farmers for their flamboyant, ruffled blooms and sword-like foliage, irises make beautiful cut blooms and last well in the vase.

Claire holds the National Collection of Bearded Irises and has successfully grown fields of bearded irises in four different locations and soil conditions during her 40-year career. Claire wants to share how easy they are to grow in a garden setting.

Perennial Courtyard

The Perennial Courtyard will offer a contemporary twist on the cottage garden, inspired in part by the front garden at White Hopton Farm. The soft textural planting will create a gentle tapestry of late spring flowering perennials punctuated by the pop of early season peonies such as ‘Garden Peace’, ‘Raspberry Charm’ and ‘Cytherea’.

Claire’s modern take on cottage gardens is extremely low maintenance and in early spring, Claire’s husband and business partner, Ric Kenwood, simply strims the foliage and seedheads in the front garden at the farm back to ground level.

Three of Claire’s plant introductions are set to make a Chelsea debut – Alchemilla mollis ‘Cream Dream’, Geranium x oxonianum ‘Patricia Josephine’ and PulmonariaSpring Awakening‘.

Hot on the heels of Chelsea, Claire and the team will be opening their site at White Hopton Farm in Sarn near Newtown on Thursday 8th June and Friday 9th June between 10am and 4pm. (Entrance £7).

Show visitors will be delighted to see Claire back at RHS Chelsea where she has won countless awards for her show exhibits. She is also author of several books including ‘Peonies’ and ‘Claire Austin’s Book of Perennials’.

Credits: all images ©Claire Austin Hardy Plants.