It’s all about the trees

The 2019 RHS Chelsea will certainly go down as a vintage year. The varied gardens, the uplifting designs and the sense of wellbeing all added to something really rather special. Below Sandy Felton takes a look at what we liked.

This year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be remembered for the trees! Beside some outstanding specimens on various gardens, trees were heavily used on many designs adding to the sense of peace and calmness on many of the show gardens. There was a lightness about Chelsea this year and certainly a more relaxed planting style and yes, the ubiquitous cow parsley, found favour.

First of all the trees – some absolutely stunning examples of trees, particularly pinus. On the Morgan Stanley garden, Chris Beardshaw brought us stunning Acer and Cornus as well as a magnificent Pinus nigra austriaca.(pictured left)

His dynamic hedging of Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea gave the perfect backdrop to the side of the garden.

On Sarah Eberle’s Resilience Garden, designed to explore how forests and gardens can be made resilient to the challenges posed by climate change, among the trees Sarah planted were Ginko biloba, Juglans nigra and Sequoiadendron giganteum. The Japanese Cedar Cryptomeria japonica was special.(pictured below)

On the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, Mark Gregory choose Acer campestre, Alnus glutinosa and Salix alba.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge choose a woodland setting for her families and communities garden – The RHS Back to Nature Garden – with lovely examples of how trees can enclose, and give the power of wellbeing – a perfect playground for children and adults.

On the Wedgewood Garden, Jo Thompson choose the dramatic Betula nigra and the stately Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood) simply magnificent. (above) Over on the David Harber/Savills garden a beautiful woodland clearing in a city garden gave us Carpinus betulus, Acer campestre and Corylus avellane aurea among many. So relaxed and peaceful, I spent a lot of time just enjoying all this garden had to offer.

In the Great Pavilion Baroness Floella Benjamin, once again produced a delightful garden with heavy emphasis on environmental sustainability and water conservation. ‘Floella’s Future‘ (Gold) (above) consisted of a 3-metre head made up of 3,000 tubes representing single-use straws providing a dramatic effect over the whole garden. There was a greenhouse made from recycled bottles and the plastic wave and sea scene with a carpet bedded turtle highlighted the pollution of our seas. Sponsor Birmingham City Council showcased traditional, seasonal bedding with all the plants produced by the Council’s nurseries.

A lovely tribute to David C.H. Austin, formed around the Obelisk in the Great Pavilion, served to remind visitors of the outstanding contribution to the world of horticulture and his lifelong passion for roses. A beautiful selection of cut roses surrounded the Obelisk including Capability, Beatrice and Juliet and Miranda.

The David Austin stand this year formed a circular design with new varieties Eustacis Vye (Ausegdon) and Gabriel Oak (Auscrowd) on show. They received their 25th Gold medal for this true feast to the senses.

The Plant of the Year went to Sedum takesimense ATLANTIS (‘Nonsitnal’). This attractive and easy to grow multi-functional plant, forms 30 cm high cushions of variegate foliage with yellow flowers.

It is available from Suttons via mail order.

The Hillier stand (Gold) is always one to head for in the Great Pavilion and this year designer Lilly Gomm made her Chelsea Flower Show design debut with a blend of contemporary and traditional design.

I particularly liked the water feature on this garden, a curtain of gentle water flowing down that could be seen from all angles of the garden (seen in the background of the picture above.) Hillier is another stand where trees predominate and their planting list always reads like an encyclopedia of plants and shrubs – totally delicious. Well done to Lilly and the team on the Gold.

We liked this Tree of Life illuminated Wall Mount from The Firepit Company (left) and I loved the Bill and Ben detail on the National Chrysanthemum Society stand. (below)

The RHS Chelsea Product of the Year competition was won by the Hotbin Mini Composter. The judges thought that the composter showed real innovation in making compost cleaner and simpler. Designed for smaller households, it produces compost from various types of waste, including cooked food.

The D Day 75 Garden designed by John Everiss was a moving reminder of the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944. During press day various veterans were visiting the garden to see this unique instllation. Fragile metal sculptures depicted the scene of the young men wading onto the beaches in Normandy while a solid stone sculpture of D-Day veteran Bill Pendell MM, reflects upln 75 years to recall the events that unfolded that day.

This garden is a national tribute to Normandy veterans and will be located to a permanent site in Arromanches, France, when the show ends.

I was fascinated to watch RHS award-winning botanical artist, Julia Trickey, painting live in one of the Hartley Greenhouses. Their impressive trade stand consisted of a number of greenhouses and glasshouses in their range, beautifully dressed with furniture and accessories. The theme chosen for each greenhouse reflected some of the ways Hartley Botanic’s own customers are using the Hartley range to achieve a good life balance. In the Victorian Lodge there was a Scandi look with an al fresco dining theme, while in the Hartley 10 Greenhouse there was a calm and tranquil feel with a meditation/yoga space. The Magnum Opus became the artist’s garden studio where Julia worked during press day (pictured left). The stand was awarded 5* and the RHS Director General’s Tradestand Award.

So sad its all over for another year – certainly 2019 will go down as one of my best ever Chelsea Flower Shows.

Photo credits: All images are ©Reckless Gardener – credit Emma J Campbell Photography